Opera in the Garden
21st Anniversary Opera in the Garden Saturday 11th March 2017
Due to the very inclement weather and for the first time in its history, Opera in the Garden could not be held at the Kennaway's orchard. Instead the venue was moved to the Kensington Stadium in Whangarei where more than 1000 people packed in to listen to the concert.
Whangarei-born tenor Kawiti Waetford was the guest artist for the second time and thrilled the audience with his dynamic stage presence and his glorious voice. A multi-talented opera singer and performer and ex-pupil of Joan Kennaway, Kawiti recently graduated with a Masters degree in Advanced Vocal Studies from the Wales International Academy of Voice, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, under acclaimed Welsh tenor Dennis O’Neill. Of New Zealand Maori descent, he has been mentored by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and has performed with her at numerous national and international engagements. He has also performed for Their Royal Highnesses Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Henry of Wales, and has attended Buckingham Palace to meet Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.
As Joan Kennaway was led to the podium by her husband Rick and great-grandchildren Poppy and Violet Wilde, the audience rose in a spontaneous standing ovation. The concert felt more like a party as the Opera North Chorus, Kawiti and soloists sang music from the Magic Flute, Eugene Onegin, and La Traviata. Kawiti sang romantic Neopolitan songs and the Spanish song Granada before joining the Opera North Chorus and Bronwyn Kennaway for the Act 1 Finale of The Merry Widow. An unexpected addition to the programme and special treat for everybody, was the duet of Kawiti and Joan Kennaway singing The Merry Widow Waltz, which led to another standing ovation and not many dry eyes. Lisbe Jooste with the Opera North Men's Chorus, sang a beautiful La Vergine degli Angeli from The Forice of Destiny and the first half ended with the dramatic Polovtsian Dances from Borodin's Prince Igor.
During the interval a giant 21st Birthday Cake was wheeled out, ceremoniously cut by Joan and Rick Kennaway.
Joan and Rick Kennaway cutting the 21st birthday cake
The usual blend of peacock coloured outfits for the Chorus dramatically changed to those of the glittering Flapper Era to complement the Roaring Twenties Medley which opened the second half. The Jazzy Ain't Misbehaving was then sung by Tracey Barnier-Willis followed by Kawiti singing the glorious Seranade from The Student Prince. A rousing excerpt from Col Porter's Anything Goes preceded Kawiti singing Maria from West Side Story before he was joined by Sophie Sparrow (also an ex pupil of Joan Kennaway) for the haunting One Hand One Heart. Joan's Tweeters, all dressed in Flapper costumes, sang a medley from Annie and Phoebe Robertson contributed Gimme Gimme from Thoroughly Moden Millie. Kawiti joined the Chorus for a medley from the haunting show Ragtime and the second half concluded with highlights from Show Boat including the chorus joining Rick Kennaway in his powerful rendition of Ole Man River for which he received a standing ovation.
After the formal presentations at the end of the concert, the audience again arose for a third standing ovation. As the audience left, pieces of the birthday cake were available to take away as a wonderful momento of a very special concert.
Dave Mandeno and Tracey Barnier-Willis
Kawiti Waetford and Opera North Chorus