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News & Stories

29th November 2020

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Gounod's St Cecilia Mass

Members of Opera North joined the Whangarei Choral Society for this concert and provided the three soloists, Jack Trubshaw, Rishi Iyer and Vera Pluijlaar.  Having had to cancel two previous concerts this year due to Covid 19, the WCS were delighted that this concert could go ahead.  Likewise, the Opera North members were pleased to be able to sing, given that Opera North too had to cancel two concerts this year.


Classics in the Cove

25th October 2020

Due to Covid 19, this annual event was held much later in the year than usual, but was again blessed with glorious sunny weather. A large crowd sat on the shady lawn and thoroughly enjoyed all the singing.

Ridge Pononi and Alof4 headlined the concert, with contributions from Sarah Whittles and various other soloist, Opera North, Charismata Singers and Whangarei Youth Choir.  Accompanists were Clare Henderson, Kathy Teinake and Mirabella Uphoff.

Items included piano pieces from Mirabella Uphoff, Operatic Arias, items from Musical Theatre and Leider.


Ridge Pononi and Alof4 



Northland Performing Arts Vocal Competitions

11-12 September 2020

We were lucky in Northland to be able to hold these annual competitions as they fell outside of any Covid 19 restrictions. Members of Opera North competed again.

Emer Lea was very successful, jointly winning the James Rice Youth Theatre Scholarship and the James Rice Cup and winning the Happiness Cup as well as other placings.

Jack Trubshaw won the Cooke Family Cup, was a joint winner of the Good Companions Choral Trophy and also had other placings. The photo shows Jack receiving the Cooke Family Cup.

Lisbe Jooste, Maria Satterfield and Emma Couper, all members of Opera North, are all singing teachers and were all very proud of their pupils' successes in the competitions.



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Rent-The Musical

30 August - 14 September 2019


Opera North singers Rishi Iyer and Sarah Whittles starred as Roger and Mimi respectively in this classic Broadway rock-opera about love, friendship and community performed by vibrant and talented members of the Whangarei Theatre Company. 

Rent is an imaginative retelling of the classic Puccini opera, La Boheme and is the unforgettable story of a group of young artists learning to survive, falling in love, finding their voices and living for today -"No Day But Today".



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Northland Performing Arts Vocal Competitions

30 August - 14 September 2019


The annual Northland Performing Arts Singing Competitions have now had to be divided up over two weekends due to the high number of competitors.  The Senior/Intermediate Competitions were held over the weekend 31 Aug/2 Sept 2019. Lesley Graham was the Adjudicator and said she had been overwhelmed with all the talent on display.

Members of Opera North walked away with many of the prizes and pupils of Opera North members also did extremely well.


Emma Blood-Mouat scooped the Choral Society Cup, the Wallace Cup, the Australasian Cup and the Vitu Levu Cup achieving 1st in the Senior Duet with her son Samuel Parry as well as three further 1st places and one 2nd place. 

Julie Young won the Nadeau Cup and achieved one 1st four 2nd and two 3rd place.





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Chanel Edwards won both the Vauxhall Cup and the James Rice Cup and was awarded the NEWZATS Study Prize. She achieved three 1st one 2nd and one VHC place.

Jack Trubshaw was awarded the James Rice Youth Theatre Trust Scholarship and achieved three 2nd five 3rd and one VHC place.

Brothers William & Harry Trubshaw won the Good Companions Choral Trophy and Award.

William Trubshaw also achieved three 3rd and one 1 Commended place.

Esmee Clemow won the Cooke Family Cup and achieved one 1st, two 3rd and one VHC place.

Zena Finlayson won the Happiness Club Trophy, the McDonald Family Cup, was awarded the James Rice Scholarship and achieved four 1st and one VHC place.

Caitlin Morris was 2nd in the Senior Duet with sister Keisha and achieved one Very Highly Commended place.

Keisha Morris was 2nd in the Senior Duet with sister Caitlin and achieved one 3rd and one Highly Commended place.

Zoe Willem-Pritchard achieved one 3rd place.

Samuel Parry won the Senior Duet with his mother Emma Blood-Mouat and achieved one 2nd and three 3rd places.

Sophie Johnston achieved one 2nd place.




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Last Night of the Proms

21 July 2019

Several members of Opera North are also members of the Whangarei Choral Society and together with the Northland Sinfonia and Whangarei District Brass, presented a packed-out concert at Forum North. 

The programme featured the National Anthems of both Great Britain and New Zealand, Polovtsian Dances by Borodin, Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves by Verdi, several separate items by the Northland Sinfonia and Whangarei District Brass and finished in true Proms style with Jerusalem, Pomp & Circumstance March No 1, Rule Britannia and Auld Lang Syne.  The choir decked themselves out in red, white & blue, as did many of the audience who joined in the singing with gusto, waved flags and bobbed up and down in keeping with the traditions of the Last Night of the Proms Concert held in the Royal Albert Hall London.


The Phantom of the Opera

June 2019

Eleven members of Opera North joined  the Whangarei Theatre Company's extremely successful production of  "The Phantom of the Opera". The production ran over three weeks in June and was enthusiastically received by critics and public alike. 

Of the Opera North singers, leading roles were played by  Sarah Whittles as Carlotta Giudicelli, Rishi Iyer as Ubaldo Piangi, Debbie Graham as Mme Giry, Lillie Grandison as Meg Giry, Dean Scanlen as M Andre and  Ian Page as Me Lefevre & Don Atilio.






Classics in the Cove

Sunday 7th April 2019


This year's concert was held in the most glorious sunny weather and featured performances by Ridge Ponini, members of Opera North, the Dream Girls, Zena Finlayson, Katrina Poynter, Abby Franklin and Emer Lea.  Accompanists were Sean Scanlen, Mirabella Uphof, Delwyn Rusk, Margo Finlayson and Matthew Perry on drums.

Items from Opera were intermingled with those from Musical Theatre, Folk Songs, Samoa and Africa giving a very eclectic feel to the afternoon.  A most enjoyable concert, which is fast becoming an annual event.

The photo shows Ridge Ponini with members of Opera North.

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David Lloyd Mandeno

24 March 1944 - 22 January 2019

It is with huge regret we record that Dave Mandeno, a stalwart member of the Opera North family since its inception, passed away on 22nd January 2019  after a short illness.

Not only was Dave a valued member of the Bass Section of Opera North, he also acted as our Treasurer and was an all-round good guy.

He was fittingly farewelled at a standing-room only service held at the Anglican Church, Regent, in Whangarei on Saturday 26th January 2019. 

Dave is greatly missed, not only by his own family, but also by the family of Opera North.

The photo shows Dave with Joan Kennaway.


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Annie the Musical

November 2018



Several members of Opera North were involved with the Whangarei Theatre Company's production of "Annie" which was thoroughly enjoyed by young and old alike.

Emer Lea shared the title role of Annie, Debbie Graham played the role of Grace, Susan Alves, Ian Page and Rishi Iyer all played several roles and sang with the Company.


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North Haven Hospice Variety Show

24th October 2018


As the late Joan Kennaway spent her last days in the North Haven Hospice, her husband Rick wanted to help by presenting a Variety Concert to raise funds.

This was held at the Capitaine Bougainville Theatre Forum North on 24th October 2018, raising several thousand dollars.  Members of Opera North took part, together with Mirabella Uphof (Piano Performance), Brioso Corde (Classsical Music), Circool Circus & Basin City Big Band.

The Mikado

1-2 September 2018


Members of Opera North played the majority of the principal roles in the Whangarei Choral Society's costumed concert version of "the Mikado" which was presented over the weekend of 1st & 2nd September 2018.

John Swinney was The Mikado, Tony Clemow was Nanki Poo, John Thompson was Pooh-Bah, Ian Couper was Pish-Tush, Susan Alves was Katisha, Lynne Snell was Yum Yum, Robin Johnson was Pitti-Sing and Heather Hayes was Peep-Bo.



Jesus Christ Superstar

June 2018

Members of Opera North performed in Whangarei Theatre Company's musical production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" which played to enthusiastic audiences and received very good reviews.

The musical was directed by Gayle Dowsett with the part of Mary Magdalene being played by Debbie Graham, Pontius Pilate by Alister Williams and Franco Meyer as Caiaphas, all members of Opera North. Several other members of Opera North were in the chorus.


Because of Joan Concert

16th June 2018

A joyous celebration of the life and legacy of Joan Kennaway took place in front of a packed-out Bougainville Theatre at Forum North in Whangarei.

The concert featured the greatest array of singers ever assembled on a stage in Northland as former pupils, such as Hayden Tee and Kawiti Waetford and special guest artist Helen Medlyn, delighted everyone by giving of their time and talent "because of Joan".
Interspersed between the songs were short narrations by people who had been important to her story.

The concert ended with everyone singing The Best of Times is Now, a musical number often used at the end of Opera North's concerts, epitomising Joan's concept of life.