GOLOCAL


Work disappeared overnight for opera singers Angus and Anna Simmons after the fallout of Covid-19 brought a sudden halt to live performances.

So the husband-and-wife duo decided to bring live opera to local gardens and backyards instead, while they wait for things to return to "normal".

Leading up to the lockdown, Angus said he received a new email each day with show postponements and cancellations.

Studio artist Anna was scheduled to perform as Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro 2020 production with the New Zealand Opera in June and July.

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But the fallout of Covid-19 meant the three-city tour and 13 shows were postponed.

"It felt like everything was taken away overnight, which was a pretty devastating feeling for everyone in the arts," Anna said. "It was a harsh blow."

She said, for many Kiwi artists, singing was their full-time job and to have all of their income taken away overnight was challenging. Many started to share their skills online.

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However, the pair said singing in front of a camera was "not the same" so, once the country moved to alert level 3, they started their new business venture, Opera in Giardino.

Angus said Opera in Giardino - Italian for Opera in the Garden - was a way for him and his wife to continue performing, as well as make some money after all their work disappeared.

"It also gives people the opportunity to listen to some live music," he said.

Since starting the business, Angus said he and Anna had sung at about seven garden concerts and have bookings up until late July.

Anna said many people had booked their services for a surprise birthday gift, anniversary or lunch and she was pleased to finally be able to sing to an audience again.

"Now we can reconnect with our audiences," she said.

However, it was a lot more intimate singing in a backyard, compared with a live theatre audience.

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"Firstly, you can see people's faces, which is actually really special, to see not only the reactions to the music, but to be able to play off what you're giving people and what they're giving back.

"You can feel the energy between the performer and the audience a lot more. The space you are performing in is heightened because it is so intimate."

In terms of the future, Angus was prepared for things to change.

"There will be a new normal and who knows what that will look like," he said.

The pair's plans to move to Germany in September to pursue their operatic careers were now uncertain due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, which meant the immediate future would be spent continuing to sing for Tauranga.

More information is on the Opera in Giardino Facebook page or email operaingiardino@gmail.com

About the artists

Anna Simmons

Anna is from Tauranga and attended Tauranga Girls' College.
She graduated from the University of Waikato with a Bachelor of Music with honours. After that, she moved to Auckland and has been based there since, working for the New Zealand Opera, where she is currently a Dame Malvina Major Foundation Studio Artist.

Angus Simmons

Angus is from Christchurch. He graduated the University of Canterbury with a Bachelor of Music with honours. After that, he moved to Auckland to gain experience.
In 2019, he was a Dame Malvina Major Foundation Emerging Artist with the New Zealand Opera.