Teenager's opera takes to stage

BRIDGET JONES
Last updated 05:00 23/05/2012
love thy neighbour
MICHAEL SMITH

STAGE DEBUT: A scene from Callum Blackmore's Love Thy Neighbour.

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Not many people can say they have written an opera, and even fewer 17-year-olds can make the claim. But Callum Blackmore has done just that and it opens tonight.

Love Thy Neighbour is a tragic-comedy about a spinster gardening guru, her prize-winning turnip named Winston and her battles with a neighbouring hypochondriac.

The opera won the Under 30 category of a nationwide competition run by Auckland's Opera Factory and will open tonight for a five-night run in Newmarket alongside Open Section winner Ulla's Odyssey, composed by Anthony Young.

Blackmore started "tinkering away" at the opera at the end of 2011, first after school, before spending a few months on it during his school holidays.

The 17-year-old, who calls Wagner's operas his favourites, says this is his second attempt at creating a show, but he made sure there was no pressure to succeed this time.

"I had an attempt a couple of years ago, but I've learnt so much since then. I've honed my technique.

"It was difficult at times, the attitude I had about it was to try it out. If it doesn't work, then it doesn't matter."

Blackmore says while he was happy with what he created, it wasn't until he saw the production's dress rehearsal that he knew it was something special.

"It was just amazing. The [performers] have added so many layers that I couldn't have foreseen when I was writing it. They really become the characters, they bring the story to life, they bring the music to life - it's no longer just some notes on a page, it's a living, breathing piece of artwork."

The Selwyn College student is no stranger to accolades - Blackmore won the 2010 APO Secondary School Composers' Competition where students from around New Zealand compose original pieces for a symphony orchestra.

In 2011 Auckland Libraries commissioned him to write a new piece of music for NZ Music Month.

Blackmore has also been involved with the Opera Factory - a fringe theatre acting as a training ground for both opera performers and opera lovers - for a few years, working on his musical skills.

Operating since 1994, singers of all abilities are invited to join the company to learn and foster the skills of opera through classes and workshops.  

It is also a place for pianists, directors, costume designers and stage managers to learn their craft in an arena that mirrors a full-scale opera company.

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- Auckland Now

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