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Opera North - Opera in the Garden


Opera in the Garden

22nd Anniversary Opera in the Garden Saturday 10th March 2018









On Saturday afternoon 10th March 2018 in a Glenbervie garden, more than 800 people saw a wonderful concert when Opera North and their guest artist, soprano Sophie Sparrow, entertained at the annual Opera in the Garden.

More than a little worry preceded this event. Firstly, Opera North’s beloved founder, musical director and conductor, Joan Kennaway QSM, had died a month beforehand after a long fight with cancer. Prior to her death, Joan had planned the concert in its entirety, the “Night and Day” theme, the music, the singers – everything. The first worry was whether the concert would become reality. Following an almighty effort from several backstage people and the entire company of singers, this was resolved.

The second worry, of course, was the weather. Following an extremely wet summer and with Cyclone Hola bearing down, the weather was a concern, but the ensuing fine day saw these concerns evaporate and the usual great audience appear. Did Joan have a finger in that too!


             Sophie Sparrow singing 'Vilia'

          Emma Couper singing 'Queen of the Night'          



                 John Thompson                                                                                                                            


                        Lisbe Jooste 

 The concert opened with a spine-tingling vocal version of Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra conducted by Lisbe Jooste, the conductor for the first half of the programme of operatic music. Highlights were Sophie’s stunning pink gown, her gorgeous performances of Vilia from The Merry Widow and Dvorak’s haunting Song to the Moon and also her Ach, ich Fuhls from The Magic Flute. Sophie was joined by Emma Couper who sang a splendidly malevolent Queen of the Night.

The second half of the programme saw Maria Satterfield take the baton for the lighter Musical Theatre numbers which opened with a beautiful medley of Gershwin music. This featured soloists, Rick Kennaway (at 80 still with that wonderful bass voice), Richard Johnston and Tracey Barnier-Willis. This half also featured Joan’s Tweeters, the junior group she set up seven years ago, Sophie’s Moonfall and On a Clear day.

As a surprise, Sophie was joined by Shaan Kloet (who as Shaan Antunovich was the 2014 guest artist) in Streisand’s Happy Days/Get Happy.


                    Rick Kennaway


                The Tweeters


               Sophie Sparrow


     Sophie Sparrow, Rick Kennaway

       Part of Opera North Chorus







The wonderful afternoon closed with a Night and Day Medley arranged by music writer Simon Walter. Joan had commissioned Australian based New Zealander Simon, whom she had worked with many times previously, to construct a medley of songs based upon this theme. And what an amazing job he did.

The Opera North singers were accompanied by magical-fingered Clare Henderson and the gent whom compere Craig Robertson introduced as Lachie ‘The Cocky’ Mclean. Sophie was joined by Kamo High old boy and current University of Auckland official accompanist, Juan Kim.

So, from the welcoming speech by Mayor Cheryl Mai right through to the end as night followed day, the sun shone and the audience were supremely entertained. Joan would have been extremely pleased and very, very proud. 


                 Sophie Sparrow and Shaan Kloet

                       Quintet singing 'In the Still of the Night'


         Bronwyn Kennaway and Emma Blood-Mouat


                                      Craig Robertson


                        Clare Henderson receiving flowers


Opera in the Garden past years

Guest Artists

Kaiti Waetford