The biennial New Zealand Festival has launched its 2014 line-up – announcing a programme that promises 24 days and nights of the best art, performance and literature from around the world.
Started in 1986, the Festival is characterised by its unique scale and diversity, as well as its promise to push boundaries and pursue the biggest names in international arts. Hosting events from the classical to the cutting edge, grand spectacles to intimate arts experiences, Wellington will become the stage for around 300 events from 21 February – 16 March 2014. Festival on the Road will also take selected shows out to the regions.
2014 marks the first Festival from new Artistic Director Shelagh Magadza, who previously directed the Perth International Arts Festival from 2008-2011. “From the family-friendly Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular,the astonishing circus skills of Beyond, and the world-famous light and sound experience Power Plant at the Botanic Garden to the cult appeal of Yo La Tengo and the macabre magic of the delightfully twisted
Tiger Lillies, I’m interested in celebrating great art in its many and various forms,” she says.
Her 2014 New Zealand Festival programme features such legends of the stage as Festival favourite and theatre mastermind Robert Lepage with his updated version of Needles and Opium. Russian directorDmitry Krymov brings his joyful reimagining of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It),commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, complete with giant puppets, acrobats and a performing Jack Russell. Early music expert Maestro Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan provide a double-bill of Bach, and star choreographer Ohad Naharin’s Batsheva Dance Company comes from Israel to New Zealand for the first time with a greatest hits showcase for the Festival’s opening weekend.
International headliners sit alongside Kiwi icons, including six world premiere productions, with two by New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureates. In a Festival first, Lemi Ponifasio, with MAU, brings a pair of provocative new works: The Crimson House and Stones In Her Mouth. Ponifasio is a regular on the bills of major Festivals overseas, and this is a rare chance to see his extraordinary creations on home turf. WriterBriar Grace-Smith joins Auckland Theatre Company director Colin McColl and an all-star Kiwi cast to bring the Spanish-flavoured East Coast love story ¡Paniora!
“¡Paniora! is joined by a number of other events that have a strong Spanish influence,” says Artistic Director Shelagh Magadza. “Opera aficionados will be cast back to the Spanish Civil War in Ainadamar, by acclaimed composer Osvaldo Golijov – who the New York Times has called the “saviour of classical music”.Ainadamar celebrates the life of Federico García Lorca and our version features international soloists from the Grammy Award winning recording with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Maverick flamenco dancer Israel Galván from Seville also brings his quick-fire footwork and a bucket-load of charisma to the programme.”
Known for being passionate about community participation, Shelagh says it is only fitting that the 2014 Festival kicks off with a massive party open to all at Wellington’s Civic Square on 21 February. “The Festival gets started with a Big Bang when 200 young drummers from across New Zealand join 300 singers from community choirs, Strike Percussion and Kora – all on one stage – it’s a great big community celebration,” she says.
For music lovers there’s jazz from Madeleine Peyroux, and a rich offering at Wellington’s James Cabaret, which sees an eclectic mix of music and cabaret from around the world including soul-survivor Charles Bradley and indie darling Neko Case, each for under $50. Wellington will also welcome writers and thinkers from here and abroad to share their stories at the 2014 Writers Week from Friday 7 to Wednesday 12 March. Highlights at Writers Week include astrophysicist Marcus Chown, the celebrated author ofWild Swans, Jung Chang, Man Booker Prize winner Tom Keneally and global bestseller Eat, Pray, Loveauthor Elizabeth Gilbert.
The full Writer’s Week programme will be announced on 30 January 2014.
2014 New Zealand Festival Highlights
- Brilliant Quebecois director Robert Lepage revisits Needles and Opium with an updated storyline and stunning visual effects, 20 years after the play made his name
- Russian director Dmitry Krymov’s inventive take on Shakespeare’s heart-warming comedy,
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It)
- HBO’s True Blood star Denis O’Hare performs An Iliad, his one-man play based on Homer’s epic poem
- In a remarkable solo show, Irish actor Aidan Dooley brings to life the story of unsung Antarctic heroTom Crean
- A hit at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Bullet Catch comes to Downstage/Hannah Playhouse (venue name to be confirmed) with the story of the magic trick in which a performer is seen to catch a bullet in his teeth. Downstage/Hannah Playhouse will also host Ursula Martinez in a provocative one-woman show My Stories Your Emails and Victor Rodger’s take on the gay male Samoan experience, Black Faggot.
- Spanish dancer Israel Galván revolutionises flamenco for the 21st century in La Curva
- Contemporary dance meets Irish folk and World music in Rian, the result of a unique collaboration between Irish choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan and Liam Ó Maonlaí from The Hothouse Flowers
- Israeli dance company Batsheva offers a taste of acclaimed choreographer Ohad Naharin’s triumphs, bringing together fragments of existing works to create a new whole in Deca Dance
- Young New Zealand artist Ross McCormack meditates on Age in his contemporary dance work
- The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, a musical celebration of the iconic BBC television series, will feature Daleks, monsters and the work of composer Murray Gold played by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
- So called “saviour of classical music” (New York Times) Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov’sGrammy award-winning opera about Spanish cultural icon Lorca, Ainadamar
- Bach Collegium Japan performs two major Bach concerts: The St John Passion and Lutheran Masses
- Cult cabaret trio The Tiger Lillies will perform 25 songs inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner against stunning projections of seascapes
- Requiem for the Fallen reflects on New Zealanders in World War I through poetry, taonga puoro and string quartet
- American jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux, whose vocal style has been compared to that of Billie Holiday, at the Michael Fowler Centre
- Iconic Kiwi rockers Jon Toogood and Julia Deans join Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Tama Waipara in their interpretation of Jacques Brel songbook in The Words and Music of Jacques Brel
- Indie singer Neko Case brings her unique vocal style to the Festival
- The subject of Poull Brien’s recent documentary Soul of America, soul singer Charles Bradley will play two nights at the James Cabaret
- Terry Castle, Professor of English at Stanford has been described as “an outstanding public intellectual” (The Guardian) who can speak with both humour and insight on almost any topic.
- Youngest ever winner of the Man Booker Prize, The Luminaries author and Victoria University graduate Eleanor Catton will talk about the idea of change – in fiction, of mind, and as a state
- Biographer and curator Jill Trevelyan has specialised in writing about New Zealand artists, and this year she published her biography of iconic Wellington art dealer Peter McLeavey
The full Festival line-up can be found at festival.co.nz, tickets are on sale to Friends from 25 October and the general public from 31 October 2014. The Festival programme is embargoed until 6pm, 23 October.