Open-air opera gets crowds rocking

NAOMI ARNOLD
Last updated 13:00 18/02/2013
Opera
PATRICK HAMILTON/ Fairfax NZ
ON SONG: Julia Deans belts out a number during Nelson Opera in the Park on Saturday Night.

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Close to 8000 people gathered under clear skies for Opera in the Park's return to Trafalgar Park on Saturday.

People were queuing from 4.30pm to get a good spot in front of the large stage set up at the end of the grounds. They picnicked and sat back in chairs or on rugs, almost covering the length of the field, as their children roamed free at the back.

The Ladykillers - Tina Cross, Suzanne Lynch and Jackie Clarke - warmed up the crowd before soprano Madeleine Pierard, her sister and mezzo soprano Anna Pierard, Wellington tenor Tom Atkins, Nelson's Trudi Wilson, Julia Deans and Don McGlashan provided three hours of pop, classical and opera favourites, including Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro, Verdi's Libiamo Ne'lieti Calici and Bellini's Casta Diva.

All were backed by Orchestra Wellington, playing under a cluster of mirror balls which glittered onto the stage.

Julia Deans enchanted with new orchestral arrangements of her own songs, played for the first time; including Modern Fables, new song Broken Home, A New Dialogue, and Lydia, from her Fur Patrol days.

Two excerpts from La Boheme finished off the first half, and in the second Don McGlashan took to the stage with Anchor Me, Queen's English, Bathe in the River and Nature. At the end, the Ladykillers launched into the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations, which had the crowd on their feet and dancing. At 10pm Combat Pyrotechnics unleashed what has become an Opera in the Park tradition - a spectacular fireworks display to conclude the night.

Monique Hovers, originally of Vierlingsbeek in Holland, said it was great to have access to such events in Nelson.

"It's amazing how many activities we have had to enjoy," she said. "Event after event all summer."

She enjoyed Opera in the Park because it was not just about the music, but about bringing the community together.

"It's a very nice way to bring classical music to young and old. It doesn't matter who you are, but you come here and sit down and enjoy, even in Nelson.

"You can't have that in Holland."

Nelsonian Nick Shuttleworth and his neighbours Lilian Li and Mimi Herron enjoyed the show - saying it was "brilliant".

"It's a nice relaxing time," Mr Shuttleworth said.

While it was not generally his kind of music he had enjoyed the evening and meeting familiar faces at the park.

Morgan Williams, 4, said the fireworks "were really cool".

Opera in the Park technical director Antony Hodgson said he enjoyed being able to actually watch this time.

"I must say I'm a bit of a sucker for Julia Deans. Her voice is just out of this world," he said.

"All the crew totally filled up their roles so I didn't do anything the whole show, just watch it. It was a real chance to not worry about things and enjoy it for what it was."

It was the last of 10 shows for Mr Hodgson, and he said though it ""almost feels a bit off" to leave, it was a good chance for others to step forward. "It's in really good shape," he said. "Everybody enjoyed themselves and it's a long time since people were up and dancing at Opera in the Park."

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Musical director Pete Rainey said it was a "pretty magical night."

"I was thrilled with how the night went, it was really special. The whole gig is just such a treat. I think not just for people coming to it but for people involved in producing it. We all just love doing the gig.

"The performers had a great time, they were buzzing backstage. It's one of those where they all hang around and watch each other perform. They all just had a ball."

- Nelson

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