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Culture capital

By India 6 Dec 2018

Attention culture vultures! Stop what you’re doing, grab your 2019 diary (or open your calendar app, more likely), and prepare to get excited. A slew of performing arts institutions have just released their new programmes, and it’s shaping up to be a very, very good year. Here’s what we have to look forward to in Wellington.



The Royal New Zealand Ballet has an exciting season ahead.

RNZB pic
Black Swan, White Swan
Photo credit: Ross Brown

One of the highlights will be Black Swan, White Swan, an acclaimed modern retelling of Swan Lake by Slovak choreographer Mário Radačovský, which they’re performing in the middle of the year. And at Christmastime – that’s next Christmas, folks – they’ll be treating us to a magical new ballet, Hansel & Gretel, choreographed by RNZB Choreographer in Residence Loughlan Prior, with a score by Kiwi composer Claire Cowan.


Got any evening plans between January and March 2019? Cancel them – BATS Theatre’s Fringe Festival line-up is going to require your full attention.

BATS pic
Garry Starr Performs Everything

With 31 shows on offer, it’s hard to know where to begin, but I’d start with Garry Starr Performs Everything, in which Garry (Damien Warren-Smith) attempts to perform every genre of theatre in under 60 minutes. The Guardian calls it “comic genius”, and it’s been a huge hit on the international fringe circuit. For something more serious, there’s award-winning one-man show (I)sland T(rap), an Odyssey­-inspired meditation on race, identity and gun violence in the United States, performed through music and spoken-word poetry.

Don’t waste any time buying your tickets for Circa Theatre’s production of Rants in the Dark, based on the hilarious book by parenting blogger and local treasure Emily Writes. It begins in mid-January and is already selling fast.

Circa pic
Burn Her

Later, in August, we Wellingtonians will finally get to see Burn Her, the political thriller by young Kiwi playwright Sam Brooks that sold out Auckland’s Q Theatre and earned rave reviews and an Adam NZ Play Award shortlisting. And, of course, Circa has plenty of goodies to keep us entertained between those two shows!


Orchestra Wellington pic
Orchestra Wellington

Orchestra Wellington has taken a “go big or go home” approach, choosing “Epic” as their theme for the 2019 season. They’ll be tackling some of the most ambitious, grandiose works in the history of classical music, such as Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, Beethoven’s Opus 131 and Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 8. In the programme, musical director Marc Taddei quotes Schubert, who, upon hearing the Beethoven masterpiece, exclaimed, “After this, what is there left to write?” Had he been alive in 2018, I bet he would have instead exclaimed, “EPIC!”

Chamber Music New Zealand is starting the year with a bang, courtesy of Red Priest, “the only Baroque music group to have been compared to the Rolling Stones, Jackson Pollock and Cirque du Soleil”. They’ll be performing works by Biber, Telemann, Handel and Vivaldi in late March. Another highlight will come in August, when world-renowned violist Jennifer Stumm teams up with Te Kōkī Trio for the intriguingly named Secrets & Hidden Messages concert.

New Zealand Opera has cleverly scheduled a classic operatic comedy, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, for the depths of winter, right when Wellingtonians’ spirits tend to need lifting.

NZ Opera pic
The Turn of the Screw

By October, the days will be longer, and we’ll all be emotionally stable enough (I hope) to handle the intense creepiness of The Turn of the Screw, Benjamin Britten’s dark operatic version of the Henry James ghost story.

Just reading the names of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s 2019 Podium Series is enough to put you in a blissful trance: Love Eternal, Winter Daydreams, Pastoral, Transfiguration and so on. Being someone with an inordinate interest in punctuation, I’ve been drawn in by Frankenstein!!, an October concert featuring works by Stravinsky, Gruber and Haydn. Earlier in the year, I’m looking forward to hearing Holst’s The Planets performed in the concert of the same name.

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