State Highway 48 a contemporary New Zealand rock opera is finishing its current North Island tour in Tauranga. Accolades are deserved.
I’ve been walking past the conventionally good-looking image of Shane Cortese and his co-star Delia Hanna in State Highway 48 for a while now. An entire window of the Tauranga City Library is devoted to promoting this contribution to the New Zealand music scene.
Friday 28th October is a particularly “busy” night in Downtown Tauranga. It’s the TedX Women’s Night at Trinity Wharf – that’s where ARTbop contributor Diane Hume-Green is. At 5.30pm the Tauranga Art Gallery is hosting an opening for two exhibitions: there’s an installation in the Atrium Gallery that’s going to draw criticism and an exhibition of contemporary Maori ceramics and clay works. I wouldn’t miss one of our Gallery openings not because the hosting is so wonderful but because my heart sings at the continued diversity of the invited guests and calibre of the exhibitions on display.
ARTbop photographer Lee Switzer who has photo-catalogued the previous day’s installation work of Veronica Herber is here capturing the guests and the event. Parewhati Taikato and her colleagues from Creative Bay of Plenty are here. It’s Acting General Manager Jennifer Pearson’s last day in the role and the CBOP team ask me to take some photos. The Friends’ fabulous Paula Harrison obliges on my behalf. Sonya Korahina is here with a stylish new haircut – I’ve just met the creator. Why am I telling you all of this? Because this is Tauranga where the arts community supports the efforts of others. And despite the commitments she has later in the evening at Baycourt, Megan Peacock-Coyle is here supporting her colleagues at the Tauranga Art Gallery. She slips away un-noticed back up the hill to Baycourt and this evening’s hosting event supporting State Highway 48. I leave somewhat later but without viewing the exhibitions and will be back tomorrow at 11am for the floor talk.
It’s light and bright in the early summer daylight saving hours of a Tauranga Friday evening as I wander through the Tauranga City Library Arcade, up the outdoor stairs and through the Baycourt foyer.
The crowd downstairs at the pre-performance hosting is not the largest I’ve seen but it is wonderfully interesting – perhaps a testament to the performance to come. Former Creative Tauranga CEO Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell is here: as vivacious and outgoing as ever I receive a Tracey “hug”. The ever-stylish Jan Beets a Tauranga vocal legend, vocal tutor, 16th Avenue Theatre stalwart and fabulous “chanteuse” and I talk – a meeting is organised.
The ebullient Sam Hema Baycourt’s marketing and promotions maestro is here, ever smiling. And the fabulous Baycourt staffers including “Chaplin the Younger” and Tammy of the soothing international accent welcome us all. When I go to uplift my ticket the women on the counter maintains her calm and pleasantness in the face of on-going questions and requests from the person in front of me despite the increasing queue and the ringing of the theatre bells. Tauranga City Council and the Tauranga and Western Bays are fortunate to have people such as this at the forefront of public contact.
I talk with Chris Williams the creator of tonight’s performance piece. He’s funny and charming and determined that this musical creation is going places. He has a timeline. I don’t doubt that having come this far he’ll succeed in taking his production around the rest of New Zealand and on to Australia. And then?
There is a strident tinkling: yes an oxymoron but it works! Megan Peacock-Coyle introduces the creator of the performance we are to see to the wider gathering. And, just as he was in his conversation with me Chris Williams talks candidly about both the process of the creation of his work and his aspirations for its future performance and geographical distribution. It’s taken 7 years to get this far. It’s ongoing development and refinement. It’s an acknowledgement that not everything works first time or all the time. It’s also an acknowledgement of the contribution of the cast and the principals whose professionalism and dedication have lifted the enterprise. What Chris tells us is that to succeed persistence and flexibility are required. This time they’ve toured 8 North Island towns. That’s just the beginning baby!!!
The Addison Theatre is filling and I have to wait behind a large crowd. I recognise Tauranga Musical Theatre stalwart Elise Rhodes as I queue to go into the theatre. I’m seated in the stalls within “touching distance” of the stage. The set is simple, even austere. One suspended backcloth of calico walls and three traditional New Zealand/Shaker patterned doors. Three rectangular boxes and simple props form a bathroom. The lights dim, the music starts and I enter into the world of State Highway 48 – a journey of middle age, ennui, misunderstanding and resolution – no I haven’t spoiled the ending.
At intermission I wrote the following: not a musical (who told me it was a musical – it’s an opera), modern opera, heavy issues, redundancy, job demands, separation, effects on children, cellphones, games, growing apart, communication. I’d recently seen “The White Guitar” here at Baycourt a self-performed expose of a segment of modern New Zealand Pacifica life. By intermission I realised that I had been seen an operatic version of a segment of modern New Zealand life. The demands of employment encroaching on family life and the withering of a modern New Zealand relationship.
Initially I thought the black cloaked figure was a Glid of Glood weirdo lost on the way to this year’s Halloween event. I was unnerved that this overt representation of the “Black Dog” and the spiral of doom and depression bore an unnerving resemblance to the actual style and appearance of a personal acquaintance. As the opera progressed I realised that in operatic terms his gothic presence was as relevant as the Black Swan and Iago.
The performances were more than competent – there were many moments of vocal exuberance and exhilaration. The several group performances were really enjoyable. There were individual performances that stood out and the cast contains both seasoned professionals and more recent performers who embody “star quality” and that’s not just singing.
At all times I kept in mind that this was an opera – the telling of a story set to music. Did it succeed – you bet. It wasn’t about giving marks for vocal excellence, hitting every note – it was about the overall effect and presentation of some really serious contemporary issues. Madame Butterfly is about issues of race, prejudice, gender and abandonment set to music that sears your soul. The music of State Highway 48 may not sear your soul but it sets to music contemporary issues and holds you.
Should the creative funding organisations and the creative community support this production – you bet. Like “The White Guitar” this production of “State Highway 48” should be filmed. Who do I think should see it – everybody but it would be an amazing tool for the Family Court. My congratulations to everyone involved in every aspect of this production. And, I await the next operatic work of Chris Williams: I’ll be there.
There is another performance here in Tauranga tomorrow Saturday 29th October at Baycourt. I would highly recommend you take the opportunity to see this contemporary New Zealand opera.
Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.
And while you’re online you can read Rosemary’s recent review of another recent Baycourt presentation The White Guitar
And check out these upcoming performances around the Bay of Plenty:
The Incubator on 12th November 2016 you can celebrate the influence of punk in art, fashion and music. From 6pm celebrate the 40th anniversary of the punk revolution An exhibition of the styles, sighs and sounds of the punk movement. A fashion show of designs influenced by the culture and couture of punk. An exhibition of punk inspired artwork. The sound of punk, honouring the spirit and attitude of the times. Tickets are $20 pre booked or $25 on the night. You can get a ticket from The Incubator or www.undertheradar.co.nz
Bay of Plenty GARDEN & ART Festival, 17th – 20th November 2016 the tenth Biennial Garden & Art Festival showcasing Katikati, Tauranga, Mt Maunganui and Te Puke. A new festival format – a four-day festival. Garden trails open from Thursday through to Sunday with one or four-day ticket options. The Festival Hub at the Lakes with displays, exhibitions, creative concept spaces and so much more check out www.gardenandartfestival.co.nz
What’s On @ Rotorua Museum
ROTORUA UkeBox 20th November 2016 at 3pm Rotorua’s own Thermeles give a short uke performance and then there’s a community uke and sing a long. Entry is free but a gold coin donation is asked to cover UkeBox admin costs.
More information firstname.lastname@example.org
INNER WORLDS: THE ART & LIFE OF WALTER BAKKENES
to 27th November 2016 Dutch migrant Bakkenes was part of the post war European migration to New Zealand and a thriving New Zealand arts community.
to 20th November 2016 57 digitally remastered images of the work of Dutch Master Rembrandt Van Rijn
Make sure you read ARTbop’s Marcus Hobson’s review of the current exhibitions of Bakkenes and Rembrandt in
COOL & COLLECTED
to 20th November 2016 Recent acquisitions to Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa Collection
Rotorua Museum is open daily, 9am to 6pm (Dec – March) or 9am to 5pm (April – Nov), except Christmas Day. Admission is free for Rotorua residents with proof of residency. Adults $20, Seniors (65yrs+) $18, Children (5-15yrs) $8.
Whakatane Arts Awards: Now established as a major art award The Molly Morpeth Canaday Award is open for entries. Entries close on 16th December 2016. Take a look at the website or for more information email@example.com
ART ON THE STRAND
Downtown Tauranga’s outdoor art market November 13 and 27th
Interested in participating you can get information from firstname.lastname@example.org
and take a look at facebook Left Bank Tauranga