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

Patched together by its composer from earlier operas to a plot from familiar Greek mythology, Oreste features an endless stream of stunning arias. Connecting recitatives, in English tonight, propelled the plot with an urgency that revealed the theatrical nous of director Benjamin Henson.

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

A youngish all-Kiwi cast was outstanding. After their recent Lexus successes, Madison Nonoa reconciled elegance and emotion in Iphigenia's arias while the honeyed tenor of Filipe Manu drew real pathos from Pylades' love for his friend Orestes.

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Rebecca Ryan caught the virtuous Hermione with effortless vocal virtuosity while, on the sinister side, James Ioelu's Thoas was a chilling, sonorous villain, with Kalauni Pouvalu as a henchman to be feared.

Stephen Diaz's final aria as Orestes was a glorious triumph, but the countertenor had already thrilled us for more than two hours, not only vocally, but with a telling characterization of a noble hero. Who could forget that magical moment when, stepping forward on the small catwalk, Diaz was bathed in new light and resonance, as if the 1910 theatre itself was reminding us that it needs to be used more often?

What: Oreste

Where: Mercury Theatre

When: Saturday