After a pandemic-forced rescheduling, New Zealand Opera is at last preparing to stage a highly anticipated new opera comedy based on the real-life case of the “unruly tourists” who “terrorised” parts of New Zealand in 2019, making international headlines and landing the visitors in local courtrooms.
Tickets for the originally scheduled production were in high demand by intrigued Kiwis, and New Zealand Opera anticipates interest has remained high. Originally scheduled to debut earlier this year, The Unruly Tourists will now be part of the 2023 Auckland Arts Festival, with performances on 22-26 March 2023.
In one of many firsts, New Zealand Opera’s General Director, Thomas de Mallet Burgess, commissioned Livi Reihana and Amanda Kennedy from the comedy duo The Fan Brigade to work with composer Luke Di Somma to develop the opera. De Mallet Burgess will also direct the production, designed by Tracy Grant Lord.
This production, a fictionalised retelling of events, is a comedy that deals with issues of identity, group-think, and the media. It will challenge the traditional parameters of opera and reflect current social issues. It is calculated to appeal to a wider audience – moving away, in this instance, from more familiar or conventional, oft-staged material.
The Unruly Tourists revisits a now-famous episode involving badly behaved tourists from the UK who were eventually deported from Aotearoa New Zealand, leaving a trail of rubbish and ill will. As the opera will explore, the family’s refusal to conform to local social norms sparked outrage and a public frenzy. Our obsessed nation came together in a rare show of solidarity, ensuring the tourists remained front page news for weeks. The Unruly Tourists follows one journalist whose own journey intertwines with the events and the national obsession.
Indeed, a couple of our most well-known journalists weighed in when The Unruly Tourists was initially put on the calendar: Heather du Plessis Allan said she would “happily relive a summer of the unruly tourists”, and Jack Tame possibly spoke for many newbie opera-goers when he wrote, “That is a piece of commissioning genius. Forget stuffy 17th and 18th century pieces in foreign languages, I want something fresh!”
Thomas de Mallet Burgess says, “New Zealand Opera is proud to be working alongside Auckland Arts Festival to present the world premiere of a New Zealand opera. A festival is the ideal place to experiment, and this is exactly what we have done in The Unruly Tourists with our choice of writers and composer, with the narrative themes, with the hybrid musical theatre and opera cast, and with completely re-imagining the layout of the Bruce Mason Theatre for an immersive experience.
“When the production was first announced it caused a huge stir, and we know audiences have been eager to see how such a story is staged. The answer may well be – with a lot of rubbish.
“It is an exciting time in the world of opera to be able to present a modern opera comedy that is broadly appealing, entertaining, and thought-provoking. Challenging some of the conventions and boundaries of the form and inviting in new audiences who perhaps thought opera wasn’t for them is thrilling.”
Shona McCullagh, Artistic Director of Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki / Auckland Arts Festival says, “We are so excited to co-present this unbelievable yet based on a true story production, which is finally coming to the much loved and plot-appropriate Takapuna stage. As one of New Zealand’s leading commissioners and presenters of great new work, AAF loves helping artists and companies push artistic boundaries. We saw very strong interest in this comedic production when it was announced in our 2022 line up and I’d suggest booking a ticket very soon – as it’s bound to be a sell-out Festival highlight”.
Presented by New Zealand Opera and Auckland Arts Festival at the Bruce Mason Centre, in Takapuna where it all started, The Unruly Tourists breaks opera stereotypes and promises to spark conversation and reflection long after the curtain goes down.
Though this is a fictionalised depiction, New Zealand Opera is mindful of being respectful of everyone involved in the events being retold, and is working with bi-cultural and traveller-community consultants to ensure this is the case.
About the production:
What: NZ Opera and Auckland Arts Festival presents The Unruly Tourists
When: 22-26 March 2023
Where: Bruce Mason Centre, Auckland
Georgia Jamieson Emms
Composer: Luke Di Somma
Libretto: The Fan Brigade (Livi Reihana and Amanda Kennedy)
Director: Thomas de Mallet Burgess
Music Director: Luke Di Somma
Designer: Tracy Grant Lord
Lighting Designer: Matthew Marshall
Assistant Director/Movement Director: Megan Adams
Dramaturg: Riley Spadaro
Principal Répétiteur: Ben Kubiak
Assistant Movement Director: Emma Broad
Accent Coach: Perry Piercy
Tikanga and Cultural Advisor: Mikaere Paki (Ngāti Apa, Ngā Wairiki, Tūwharetoa, Irish, Ngāti Kauwhata, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Tahu, Tūmatakōkiri, Ngāti Poua, Welsh)
Cultural Advisor: Mary Bourke
March 22, 2023 8:00PM
March 26, 2023 10:00PM
Bruce Mason Centre, Auckland
The Promenade, Takapuna, Takapuna Beach 0622