Opera In The Pā


The Arts Village



Waitangi Day

Visualise you're at Milan's La Scala opera house, New York's Met or London's Covent Garden only to discover the singer and accompanist performing in different keys.

Imagine the tantrums, the storming offs, the orchestra pit hissy fits, the jeers from the audience.

Not so when it's at Rotorua's Opera in the Pā and the performer is baritone Moses McKay, one third of the Sol3 Mio triumvirate with celebrated pianist Ludwig Treviranus at the keyboard.

Joel Amosa performs. Photo / Ben Fraser
Joel Amosa performs. Photo / Ben Fraser

When that's the setting for such a musical mishap the two performers trade a few good natured verbal punches, laugh and start all over again.

Such it was when the two began out of synch on Waitangi Day's Opera in the Pā with Bizet's Votre Toast, from Carmen.

With the right note sussed, mutually struck and delivered they hug and the audience goes wild with appreciation.


As Treviranus said backstage post-show the snafu had been a bit of fun "as if we were in your living room".

No one could have encapsulated the traditional Opera in the Pā feel more succinctly.

That's exactly what its 2019 incarnation, the event's 18th was - a down-home offering which left more rarefied performances in more august settings in its dust.

So what if the setting between the Arts Village and Tamaki Tours isn't a pa?

Opera in the Pa. Summer Church and Geordie Gibson. Photo / Ben Fraser
Opera in the Pa. Summer Church and Geordie Gibson. Photo / Ben Fraser

Opera in the Pā has never been confined to one, it's twice been staged on Mokoia Island, the latest move to the CBD's fringes has made it even more accessible to all-comers.

And come they did.

With seating sold out the audience numbering an estimated thousand spilled on to the grass.

Read more:
Opera in the Pā performs to hundreds on Waitangi Day

What better way can there be of showcasing the best in New Zealand and Pacifica talent on our national day?

Under Elisha Hulton's expert directorship the small but perfectly formed line-up of MacKay, his Sol3 Mio compatriots, Amitai Pati, brother Pene Pati, Kararaina Walker, Joel Amosa, mezzo soprano Hulton with Turanga Merito MCing, made this Opera in the Pā stellar.

For those who came for pure opera, last year's Lexus Aria winner bass baritone Joel Armosa delivered with opening number Madamina from Mozart's Don Giovanni.

Soprano Kararaina Walker, a New Zealand Opera School tutor, hit the exciting high notes whether performing solo or with Hulton.

Unquestionably the, at times, madcap Sol3 Mio were the smash hit but by their reckoning 2018's Rotorua Boys' High head prefect Hohaia Macfarlane should be taking the honours.

"Wow, you find world class voices in the most amazing places . . . we're going to follow up on him," Mackay promised.

Sadly, it's not to be. Macfarlane confirmed to this reviewer he's adamant come March 4 he'll be among the army's newest recruits "at Waiouru digging holes, firing guns".

Opera in the Pa. Photo / Ben Fraser
Opera in the Pa. Photo / Ben Fraser

No one was more proud of the lot of them than Dame Malvina Major, opera's international luminary has either tutored or nurtured most; she led the standing ovations.

Only in Rotorua, whanau, can so many class acts gift their combined skills for an evening of entertainment of this quality.

Opera in the Pa 2019 came with a surprise package.

Inaugural scholarships were awarded to outstanding young local performers Neeve Coumbe and Anahera Waiariki, receiving $500 each from the Mike and Marie Steiner scholarship donated to foster musical talent.

Max Harvey received the Bill Kingi family scholarship. Fittingly it was presented by Kingi's son Zamon, now living in Canada and daughter Tania, of Melbourne.

Kingi was Opera in the Pā's founding trustee.

What a legacy he's left and how fitting the performance closed with what MC Turanga Merito billed "rare archival footage" of Kingi and our late, much loved Aunty Bea Yates singing Pokarekareana to a backdrop of the sun setting over Mokoia.

- Jill Nicholas