Oreste (Opera in three acts by G. F. Handel) – Mercury Theatre

A semi-staged production presented by Auckland Opera Studio and NZ Barok

Mercury Theatre, Auckland

Directed by Benjamin Henson. Soloists Stephen Diaz, Rebecca Ryan, James Ioelu, Madison Nonoa, Filipe Manu, Kalauni Pouvalu.

NZ’s freshest young opera talent performed alongside veterans of the stage to present a fiery tale of sacrifice, danger, and triumph. First performed in 1734 at the Covent Garden Theatre, Handel’s rarely performed baroque “Oreste” opera is a tightly woven exploration of love and lust; a desperate search for sanity in a world built on fear; a bitter struggle between destiny and desire.

Magically saved from sacrifice at her own father’s knife, Iphigenia is bound to serve the goddess Diana on the island of Tauris under the tyrannical rule of a king living in fear. As the blood of all strangers must be cast over the island’s altar, fate brings Orestes, Iphigenia’s estranged brother, to its shores.

Handel’s “Oreste” was performed in a semi-staged production by the combined forces of the Auckland Opera Studio and NZ Barok orchestra. The instrumentalists of NZ Barok, New Zealand’s own original instrument baroque orchestra took to the stage of the Mercury Theatre alongside the vocal soloists to bring Handel’s score to life. Recitatives were sung in English and arias in Italian.

Reviews & interviews:

theatreview: A high standard of style and interpretation (Reviewer: Penny Dodd) 21 August 2016

“NZ Barok are a revelation to me, the distinctive sound of their authentic instruments in perfect balance with the ensemble. Oreste is a real highlight of the Operatic calendar for 2016.”

backtrack: Strong cast opens Handel’s Oreste in Auckland (Reviewer: Simon Holden) 21 August 2016

“…one appreciated the intimacy that came out of the small group and the continuo playing was consistently alert in recitative. Handel’s Oreste could hardly hoped for a better introduction to New Zealand and we can only hope the collaboration between Auckland Opera Studio and NZ Barok will bear fruit with further premières in the future.” 4 out of 5 stars

The NZ Herald: Endless flow of stunning arias (Reviewer: William Dart) 22 August 2016

“Auckland Opera Studio and its artistic director Frances Wilson should be very proud of giving Handel’s Oreste its New Zealand premiere.

…Henson’s compact, resourceful staging had the performing space flanked by the spirited strings of NZBarok.”

NBR: Rarely performed Handel opera on at Mercury Theatre

RNZ Concert FM Upbeat: An unlikely marriage 16 August 2016

The 13th Floor: Watch Liz Gunn Discuss Oreste with Frances Wilson & Benjamin Henson 15 August 2016