Aratoi Museum of Art and History, Wairarapa

14/10/2017 - 15/10/2017

Kokomai 2017

Production Details

Paeakau, The Opera, is a unique combining of classical voice, traditional Maori singing, and Te Reo Maori and English narration to an electric guitar and taonga puoro soundscape. Beautiful and rich, Paeakau tells the story of a young woman’s journey to her own Maoridom, and to her powerful destiny, forged centuries before her birth.

The role of Paeakau will be performed by dramatic soprano Holly Winterwood and joined by the recorded voices of prominent New Zealand artists Rawiri Paratene as The Narrator and Whirimako Black as The Ancestress, Whaiora

Paeakau was commissioned by the Wairarapa Arts Festival Trust specifically for Kokomai 2017. Holly and Zac have been composing and performing together since 2013. They create and record music under two guises, Silver Lillies (acoustic atmospheric folk) and Otamo (ambient soundscapes), and are delighted to present this original piece of work to the Festival.

Aratoi, Wairarapa’s Museum of Art and History
Sat 14 Oct, 8.30pm and Sun 15 Oct, 2pm
Adult $39 / Adult Friend $36

Theatre , Opera ,

1 hr

Compact new opera a big achievement

Review by Juanita McLellan 18th Oct 2017

Paeakau: the Opera is a stunning mix of traditional opera, experimental music, lighting and traditonal Maori singing.  Created by Zac and Holly Winterwood, a very talented and highly trained operatic soprano, and her mother, Michelle Hawkins, it tells the story of a Māori woman who has lost her way.  Inspired by Paeakau’s personal journey, the whole piece is at once both universal and intimate. 

Paeakau is disconnected from her whanau.  During a dream, she hears the voice of her ancestress Whaiora, voiced by the very talented Whirimako Black. Whaiora, impels Paeakau to leave her life and her mother, and seek her river of whanau, to undertake the task of finding the lost gift left through the female family line. 

Narrated by Rawiri Paratene, the story is told in a mix of English and te reo Māori to beautiful effect.  Paratene is an inspired choice of narrator, as his soft recorded voice sets a perfect mood for the telling of the story.  Whirimako Black’s recorded singing contrasts with Holly’s live performance but their voices blend in a way that creates an eerie feeling which echoes the story itself.

Zac Winterwood, who plays the music live on electric guitar, has a gentle enigmatic presence on stage, and an obvious talent that matching that of the vocal performers.  Carrying the story through with his consistent playing takes a skill that does not go unnoticed.  Holly Winterwood sings almost effortlessly, filling the auditorium with her glorious sounds, transporting the audience on her own journey. 

Alexander Southey, lighting designer and operator, creates lighting effects that seem natural and help to carry the story in a visual way.  With simple set, props, costume and make-up, the storyline and musical narrative take centre stage.

Presented by just Zac and Holly Winterwood, with the help of Southey on lights, the undertaking of a full Opera with just 3 people on stage is a massive undertaking, but it happens so brilliantly that the lack of cast or impressive set are unimportant.   Being such a compact opera, it is an ideal touring piece. 

With a universal storyline and an apt message for today, Paeakau: the Opera is well worth seeing, and a fantastic night out.


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