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This Other Eden

an opera, by Anthony Ritchie, Opus 175

This opera focuses on the actors. This Other Eden is a singers' opera, set to some wonderful, poetic words by Michelanne Forster.

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Programme Note for first performance

Programme Note by Michelanne Forster:
In 1814 seven men, four women and five children from the London Missionary Society were invited to settle on Nga Puhi land. This first permanent settlement at Rangihoua marked the start of shared resources, shared skills and shared whakapapa between Maori and Missionary. I originally wrote This Other Eden for The Court Theatre in 1996, and it followed on from two other history plays, Daughters of Heaven and Larnach- Castle of Lies, all directed by Elric Hooper. The opera libretto reframes the play, telling the story through the eyes of Jane Kendall. It is interesting to note that the tiny missionary community came from a Georgian world, and that, even in 1814, Maori were familiar with the advantages pakeha could bring, yet also wary of losing their mana and sovereignty. Anthony and I worked a long time on this project. Several scenes were performed in The Great Hall in Christchurch in 2009 but the earthquake which devastated the city meant our plans to stage the work there could not go ahead. I am grateful to Opera Otago for taking up the challenge, and thank my wonderful colleagues, and our talented cast for bringing the opera to life.

Programme Note by Anthony Ritchie:
I have always been passionately interested in our history, and the relationship between Maori and Pakeha. The sounds of Maori music have been a presence in my music since I was a student, and echoe through my symphonies. It is strong in works such as the choral work Ahua, to a script by Keri Hulme. I have also arranged several wonderful waiata, including Tutira Mai which has been sung in many different countries around the world, and recorded by the Tapiola Childrens Choir in Finland.

Therfore I was very excited when approached by Michelanne Forster to compose an opera based on the story of missionary Thomas Kendall, his wife Jane, and their dealings with Hongi Hika and Nga Puhi. The story is so intriguing and full of drama, and rich with potential for music. Although I have written five operas before, This Other Eden breaks new ground: it integrates elements of a Maori sound world with a pakeha one, mainly through use of taonga puoro (Maori instruments). At no stage, however, does it actually borrow an existing Maori waiata but rather imbues the music with influences from waiata.

This opera focuses on the actors. This might sound obvious, but in my opinion many contemporary operas suffer from being too focused on the orchestra. This Other Eden is a singers' opera, set to some wonderful, poetic words by Michelanne, with a great design by Marty Roberts, and superb direction by Jacqui Coats.

This composition was supported by The University of Otago.