Weekend in the Cultural Capital
On Saturday afternoon I parked my car on Oriental Parade and weaved through the mass of people walking, jogging, rollerblading, cycling, chatting, sunbathing, shopping, heading in & out of cafes, to the Opera House on Manners Street. I had a front row seat for Eva - a flamenco dance performance. There was Eva as the soloist dancer, two male and three female dancers as a troupe, three male flamenco singers, two flamenco guitarists, a guy on bongoes and a drum, and another man playing the flute and soprano sax. The dancing and musicians were evocative, passionate, beautiful, creative and exciting. Many of the audience gave them a standing ovation at the end. Eva and the other dancers alternated dances, changing costumes each time. I found it interesting that though the male flamenco dancers use the same movements as the female flamenco dancers, the males dancing looked masculine, and the females looked feminine - unique to flamenco maybe?
Saturday evening I attended James MacMillan Conducts in the Michael Fowler Centre. The first half was the NZ Symphony Orchestra playing three modern orchestral pieces. The compositions were somewhat disjointed and I can't pretend I understood a lot of it. The second half was better though, as James MacMillan incorporated the NZ Youth Choir, a children's choir and four male soloists with the orchestra for the piece. The composition was abstract and melancholy, and I enjoyed it, especially with the choirs in full blast.
Sunday afternoon/evening I went to an epic theatre performance called The Dragons' Trilogy. It was at the Queens Wharf Event Centre. The rectangle performance area was in the middle, with two bleachers on either side, and the remainder of the space was closed off with black sheets - so the actual venue was smaller and more intimate. I sat a few rows back from the front. The play went for 5 hours and 45 minutes, including two 20 minute intervals and a 30 minute interval. The play was engrossing and powerful. I was surprised to see at the end there were only 8 actors, as the actors played different characters through the performance. The acting was brilliant, the story was beautiful and sad, and it's kept me thinking even now. Most of the lines were in French, some in English, and a few in Chinese (there was some translation on a screen near the roof). It was definitely the highlight of the weekend.
I also checked out some free art exhibitions:
- Earth From Above - large-scale landscape photos displayed along the promenades at Chaffers Park on the waterfront. Intriguing and impressive, each with a message about the state of the world's environment.
- Cezanne to Picasso - fourteen impressionist and abstract French paintings from the 1850s to the 1950s. Interesting, but not that impressive to me, alright if you're French I suppose. I can't yet understand why people would pay millions for a Picasso.
- Patricia Piccinini - a contemporary Australian artist who designs animals to promote the survival of some endangered species, genetically engineered animals to look after babies, baby motorcycles, and baby trucks. She uses life-size sculptures, metallic and rubber prototypes, video, and pictures for her art. It challenged ideas about genetic engineering and confused my feelings of revulsion and affection for some of her human/animal/other mixed beasts.
- Michael Smither - The Wonder Years (1962 - 1979). This was the exhibition I was most impressed with. The paintings were done when the artist lived in New Plymouth and were grouped into family, religious and landscape paintings. The paintings were distinctive, detailed, and some had layers of meaning that made you want to keep coming back to them.
- Te Papa also had an exhibition of artwork and artefacts through New Zealand's history to now. The change of style and emphasis was interesting but I didn't appreciate Te Papa's anti-pakeha bias analysis of the art and the artists.
I stayed with my Grandma for a day as part of her 76th birthday celebration. We went for a swim at the beach and played board games. Though age wearies us, some simple pleasures are always fun.
And now I'm back, with summer fleeting, a cold developing (that southerly Wellington wind was something else!), and another work year approaching like a freight train. I do feel a bit more "culturified" now, having learnt more about art and music, and experiencing amazing theatre and dance.