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SOUNZ
and the Resound project, funded by NZ On Air, present This Other Eden, composed by Anthony Ritchie and libretto written by Michelanne Forster. The film was captured at the dress rehearsal ahead of an Opera Otago season at Dunedin's Mayfair Theatre as part of the Arts Festival Dunedin. Tecwyn Evans conducted the pit ensemble and Jacqueline Coats was stage director. Principal roles were played by James Rodgers (Thomas Kendall), Elizabeth Mandeno (Jane Kendall) and Joel Amosa (Hongi Hika).

 

The film was made by Chris Watson and Danny Buchanan engineered and produced the audio.

 



In 1814 seven men, four women and five children from the London Missionary Society were invited to settle on Ngāpuhi land. This first permanent settlement at Rangihoua marked the start of shared resources, shared skills and shared whakapapa between Māori and the missionaries.

   

Act One: Scenes 1 - 5

 

Synopsis

Scene One - Remembering (the present)

Jane Kendall remembers her life in New Zealand after the death by accidental drowning of her husband, Thomas Kendall. In 1814 they went together from London to Te Ika a Maui, as New Zealand was then called by Māori. Now resettled in New South Wales, Jane feels impelled to write down the story of that traumatic time.

Scene Two - Arrival (the past)

Samuel Marsden, Thomas and Jane Kendall and the missionaries arrive at Rangihoua in the Bay of Islands and meet Hongi, Waikato, Tungaroa and other tangata whenua. Tensions are apparent and a fight breaks out between Hongi and a rival Māori chief, Korokoro. Hongi reveals his desire for muskets. Kendall's idealism is shown in his aria at the end of the scene.

Scene Three - Kumara

Stockwell, a convict assigned to Kendall's family, helps Jane with planting Māori potatoes, and reveals his sense of grievance about being sent away from Britain for a trivial offense.

Scene Four - Dead Fish

Kendall trades muskets for food with Hongi; a practical arrangement that suits them both. Kendall relies on Hongi to learn more about the Māori gods and beliefs and Hongi suggests he marries his Tungaroa, Te Rakau's daughter, who is of high status - but Kendall is already married. At the end of the scene, we learn that Tungaroa and Waikato are lovers and how loathsome Tungaroa finds this white man whose skin smells like dead fish to her.

Scene Five - Take Me Home

Marsden hears about the musket trading and appoints a new man, Reverend Butler as superintendent of the NZ mission, to try and curtail Kendall's illegal activities. Kendall is resentful and outraged a newcomer who knows nothing of the Māori should be put in authority over him. Jane reveals that she is homesick and wants to return to England. Kendall is deaf to her pleas.

   

Act One: Scenes 6 - 10

Synopsis

Scene Six - Marae

Butler is welcomed onto Hongi's marae with Marsden and Kendall. Hongi assumes that Butler has bought muskets for him as compensation for Ngāpuhi's hospitality but no; the issue of musket trading flares up again. We see Kendall is estranged from Marsden and Butler but holds sympathy for Māori values.

Scene Seven - Rain

Jane is illiterate and Thomas can never find the time to teach her - ironic given that he has come to New Zealand to teach the Māori to read and write. Stockwell helps Jane write a letter home to her mother and we see the growing attraction between them. 

Scene Eight - Visions of London

Hongi tells Kendall he wants to go to London to meet King George IV, in order to obtain more muskets. Hongi says that Kendall's book, A Vocabulary and Grammar of the New Zealand Native, needs proper guardianship, and, because Kendall wants to present his work to a scholar in London, he agrees to ask Marsden to send them overseas. 

Scene Nine - Farewell

Jane is furious that Thomas has arranged a trip to London without her, and they have a row. The scene switches to a farewell for the travellers.

Scene Ten - Carlton House

King George IV meets with Hongi, Kendall and Waikato, and Kendall presents his Vocabulary and Grammar. The King transgresses by patting Hongi on the head, which is tapu, and Hongi is wild with anger. To make up for this transgression, the King presses Hongi with more gifts of muskets. Hongi, on naming the muskets, sings of his desire for utu: compensation to right past tribal wrongs.

   

Act Two: Scenes 1 - 6

Synopsis

Scene One - Lovers

Jane and Stockwell become lovers while Kendall is away overseas. The chorus sings about Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit. These words are from original catechisms written and translated by Kendall to teach Māori about Christianity.

Scene Two - Lofty Tree

Kendall meets Marsden on his estate in New South Wales on his way home, hoping for praise for becoming both ordained and published. Instead Marsden threatens to dismiss Kendall from the New Zealand mission because of Kendall's musket trading.

Scene Three - Cooked Heart

Jane is pregnant by Stockwell. Tungaroa discusses the consequences and some possible solutions. 

Scene Four - Kendall Returns

Thomas returns to the Bay of Islands and discovers Jane has had a baby by Stockwell. He cannot forgive her. Hongi arranges for Kendall to marry Tungaroa, taking advantage of Jane and Kendall's unhappy state.

Scene Five - Stockwell Flees

Stockwell is hunted down by Kendall in a quest for utu, egged on by Hongi. Kendall catches Stockwell but spares his life, much to Hongi's disgust. Kendall tells Jane he has a new wife, and sings of his vision of a new church that incorporates lo, a parent-less Māori god.

Scene Six - Plunder

Tungaroa pleads with Hongi to save her from Kendall, and also looks for support from Waikato; however, he can't go against the wishes of his chief, Hongi. Tungaroa laments her fate.

   

Act Two: Scenes 7 - 11

Synopsis

Scene Seven - Dismissal

Kendall is dismissed from the NZ mission by Marsden but refuses to listen. Instead he ecstatically tells the Māori creation story and sings about "a new Jehovah".

Scene Eight - Battle

The last of Hongi's bloodthirsty battles in which he wreaks havoc on his opponents with muskets. Waikato castigates him for his excesses. In the middle of the battle Hongi sees a ghost (a matakite), predicting his demise and the conquering of Māori land by 'Redcoats'.

Scene Nine - Leave with Us

Jane tells Thomas she is leaving for New South Wales, and urges him to come back to her and his family, but Kendall resists despite being in a desperate state.

Scene Ten - The Storm

Marsden urges Hongi to stop supporting Kendall. Hongi is haunted by visions of 'Redcoats' taking over his land and, seeing that Kendall is no more use to him, cuts Kendall loose. As a storm rages, Kendall tears up his Vocabulary and Grammar, letting the wind take it away, utterly betrayed by both the Māori and Christian world. At the end of the scene the chorus sings "Lo, how the mighty have fallen" and move us back into the present by recounting the end of Kendall and Hongi's story.

Scene Eleven - Pen and Ink

The opera ends as it began, with Jane's memories. Her fingers are now stained with ink, but she sings that her words cannot convey her joy or pain. With the spirits of the past around her, Jane says a final goodbye to Thomas Kendall, her drowned husband. 

 


   
Anthony Ritchie has composed over 180 works during a career that includes a decade of freelance composing, several composer residencies and 13 years teaching composition at Otago University. Many of his works have been published and recorded, and performed internationally, including at the ISCM and ACL festivals. . In 2014, his choral work Salaam was commissioned and premiered by Aquarius Choir in Belgium, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra recorded his A Bugle Will Do for broadcast. His French Overture was performed by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra in 2012.

His CD A Bugle Will Do (Atoll, 2011) was named one of the 'CDs of the year' by British reviewer Nick Barnard on the Music Web International site. He completed his fifth symphony in 2014.

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Michelanne Forster is a playwright and scriptwriter and she writes both fiction and non-fiction. Forster moved to New Zealand in 1973 from her native California. She is a graduate of the University of Auckland and the Auckland Secondary Teachers College. Her plays have been produced throughout New Zealand and internationally. She has an enduring interest in writing historical drama and a keen interest in dramaturgy and classical music.

Her most well-known history plays are: Daughters of Heaven (1991), Larnach - Castle of Lies (1993), This Other Eden and My Heart is Bathed in Blood (2005).
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