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Star singers and top conductor join NZSO for Beethoven’s grandest work - NZSO

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra is joined by one of world’s top conductors, four internationally renowned vocalists and the Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir to perform what Beethoven considered his greatest work.

Beethoven’s grand Missa Solemnis will be staged in Wellington on 3 April and Auckland on 4 April. It’s one of the NZSO’s largest productions in 2020 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the great composer’s birth.

Inspired by the Catholic mass and composers Bach, Palestrina and Handel, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis was one of his last works and one of the most demanding for musicians and vocalists. It premiered in 1824, three years before Beethoven’s death, but he never saw it performed in its entirety.

Missa Solemnis will be the New Zealand debut of Scottish-born Donald Runnicles, one of the most acclaimed conductors of the past 20 years. Maestro Runnicles is Music Director of the renowned Deutsche Oper Berlin and the prestigious Grand Teton Music Festival in the United States, as well as Principal Guest Conductor of the Atlanta and Sydney symphonies.

He will be joined by four outstanding vocalists. Irish soprano Jennifer Davis was propelled to international stardom two years ago when she was offered the part of Elsa in the Royal Opera’s production of Wagner’s Lohengrin just three days before rehearsals began. Davis had never sung Wagner on stage before and critics and audiences loved her performances. "Few things in theatre are more exciting than watching a star being born," declared Britain’s The Telegraph.

Russian mezzo-soprano Vasilisa Berzhanskaya is another rising star and a finalist in the young singer category of the 2020 International Opera Awards. Winner of numerous music prizes including 1st Prize at the Bella Voce International Students Vocal Competition in Moscow in 2012, her roles include Musetta in La bohème and Micaëla and Frasquita in Carmen.

Australian tenor Samuel Sakker, a previous International Opera Awards winner and Royal Opera House company principal, has performed with leading opera companies and in concert with the world’s top orchestras. His highly anticipated debut performance as Pollione in Norma with Melbourne Opera last year was praised as "beguiling" and his duet with fellow Australian Jacqueline Dark as a production highlight.

Internationally acclaimed and Grammy Award-winning bass Jonathan Lemalu completes the vocalist quartet. Lemalu is one of the most successful New Zealand vocalists of the past 20 years and has a long association with leading opera companies and orchestras, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the London Symphony. His diverse operatic and symphonic repertoire ranges from Mozart, Mahler and Berlioz to Britten, Gershwin and John Adams.

The Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir regularly performs with the NZSO, including the NZSO’s critically acclaimed performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in 2019. The choir was praised for its European tour in 2018 and is a New Zealand Music Award winner for Best Classical album.

Tickets to Devotion are available via ticketmaster.co.nz

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