“An Art Form Valued”: The opera community urges the government to review the sector

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The Who’s Who of New Zealand Opera and the Arts has written to the government asking for an independent review of the sector after New Zealand Opera Society alleged mismanagement.

Former New Zealand Opera board member Witi Ihimaera is calling for a review that goes beyond New Zealand Opera.
Photo: WORD Christchurch

In May, Witi Ihimaera, Murray Shaw and Rachael Walkinton resigned from the NZ Opera board of directors because they were concerned about the artistic direction the company was seeking and what they termed “lack of thought and responsibility to those who love opera “designated.

Earlier this month, the three former board members, along with a number of others, wrote to Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Carmel Sepuloni asking for assistance in commissioning a review into the structure, funding and governance of the national opera society .

The letter raised concerns about how Creative NZ’s funds were being spent.

“[The three former board members] were alarmed that the generous investment of nearly $ 9 million, funded primarily by Creative New Zealand, had not been used in a way that led to the flourishing of New Zealand opera since 2019.

“There has been an upswing since her resignation [sic] worrisome by sponsors, opera audiences and professionals in the sector, which has been widely reported in the media. “

The letter went on to describe other issues that needed to be addressed.

“These include the failure of board and corporate governance, structural imbalances in staffing levels and sticking to a funding model that has led to fiscal misdirection and inequalities in the distribution of available funds.

“This has led to the implementation of an artistic program with critical problems, for example one in which the core repertoire is not maintained and the opera performance has a limited regional scope.”

The letter states that the opera community felt that the art form they loved was not treated with respect.

“The signatories of this letter understand that the issues listed above are being addressed internally by Creative New Zealand and New Zealand Opera [sic] mentioned has not stopped.

“The emotions are still running high.”

She asked to arrange a meeting with three or four representatives in Kōrero on the Kaupapa for the inspection.

Witi Ihimaera, who signed the letter, said a review and reorganization of opera as an art form in New Zealand was necessary.

“Opera in Aotearoa New Zealand is a Taonga art form. It is a valued art form. It is the oldest art form we have and it must be preserved and flourished.”

He said a review needs to go beyond the New Zealand Opera Company.

“Aside from the fact that the New Zealand Opera really needed to be looked at in terms of its operation, there was something bigger, a bigger task for us. And that was to seek a review of the entire opera sector in New Zealand.” to reset it, to start a new Kaupapa because it’s actually an amazingly large sector. “

He said this could mean the end of the New Zealand Opera Company as we know it.

“We hope the Minister will look at all of these providers, including all of these providers within the Māori sector and with the Asian sector, and then look at the situation of the New Zealand Opera in That could mean, for example, New Zealand Opera no longer exists in the future. “

The letter’s signatories include: Witi Ihimaera, Simon O’Neill, Rod Biss’ Joan Caulfield, Conal Coad, Peter Coates, Professor Richard Donald, Gennie de Lange, Flora Edwards, Dame Jenny Gibbs, Richard Greager, Janet Jennings, Ta TÄ«moti Kāretu; Peter Lockwood; Paul & Christine McLaren, Ben Makisi, Dr. Margaret Medlyn, Barry Mora, Barbara Moses, Madeleine Pierard, Tom Roa, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Murray Shaw, Martin Snell, Rachael Walkinton, Carmel Walsh, Professor Albert Wendt and others

“Constructive debate … is healthy” – NZ Opera

A spokesman for NZ Opera said the company had contacted the minister regarding the letter but did not confirm whether it would support an entire sector review.

Stephen Wainwright, CEO of Creative New Zealand, said the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa has no current intention of commissioning an independent review of the opera sector.

“We acknowledge that New Zealand Opera is in a period of rebuilding and, like many other arts organizations, its program delivery has been affected by Covid-19. We understand that this is causing some tension within the community and we consider this constructive debate on how art is contributing to public life is sane.

“Creative New Zealand continues to work closely with New Zealand Opera and is actively monitoring developments.”

Minister Carmel Sepuloni’s office confirmed receipt of the letter.



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