The classical music world is nothing if not cosmopolitan.

German soprano Christiane Libor makes her debut with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, having arrived in the country a few days ago to rehearse with the orchestra that, from her home in Germany, she's heard much about.

"Oh yes, the symphony is known and famous in Europe," Libor says.

But she owes her invitation to join with NZSO for its Masterworks Series with Strauss and Mahler 4 to performances in the title role of Ariadne auf Naxos at Seattle Opera and Opera Stuttgart. It brought her to the attention - through colleagues - of the NZSO's maestro Edo de Waart.


"And now I am here and very excited to get to see some of the country because, even from some walks around Wellington, I can see it is a very beautiful place."

During her brief stay, Libor will get to see the North Island at least. She performs with the NZSO tonight in Hamilton and tomorrow in Auckland before returning to the Capital for Saturday evening's concert at the Michael Fowler Centre.

De Waart says it's been some time since he conducted the works and likens it to revisiting old friends.

Richard Strauss was 84 when he composed his final work Four Last Songs and despite his "retirement" in 1941, he spent much of his final years writing some of his most moving music. Composed after WWII in 1948, Four Last Songs, was inspired by Joseph Eichendorff's poem Im Abendrot, which Strauss read in 1947.

It describes a couple who have walked through life together and now face their own death. The work could be a reflection of Strauss and his wife Pauline's life. Despite spending 50 years together in a rather tumultuous marriage, they remained deeply in love but, sadly, neither Strauss nor Pauline heard the songs performed. Strauss died in his sleep on 8 September 1949 and Pauline died on 13 May 1950, only nine days before Four Last Songs premiered at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Libor will also sing in the other concert masterwork, Mahler's Symphony No. 4, the ideal continuation from Maestro de Waart's acclaimed inaugural performance as the NZSO Music Director of Mahler's momentous Third Symphony in April.

What: NZ Symphony Orchestra, Masterworks Series with Strauss and Mahler 4 - Strauss Four Last Songs and Mahler Symphony No. 4 in G major
Where & when: Mystery Creek Events Centre, Hamilton - tonight; Aotea Centre, ASB Theatre, Auckland - tomorrow; Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington - Saturday.