Festival opening weekend has Dunedin buzzing

What a weekend. David Helfgott, the Camut Band and the launch of Subject2Change's debut CD, #1, on Friday night . . .

Opera Otago's stunning production of Mozart's "most perfect opera", Cosi Fan Tutte, in the Mayfair Theatre on Saturday night, followed by the only appearance of Israel's Jerusalem Quartet in the Glenroy Auditorium.

After just three days, the 2008 Otago Festival of the Arts has more than captured the imagination.

It has completely taken it hostage.

"We've had a fantastic first weekend. I'm just delighted with the buzz and the excitement around town," festival director Nicholas McBryde said yesterday.

The Burns Experience, celebrating 50 years of the University of Otago's Burns Fellowship, fires up today with a talk by Dunedin writer O.E. Middleton at midday in the City Library.

He will give a reading from his acclaimed 50-year short-story compilation, Beyond the Breakwater.

The St Paul's at One concert series also starts today with the New Zealand String Quartet at St Paul's Cathedral at 1pm.

It's the perfect place to grab a bite of culture in your lunch break.

Contemporary dance double bill Hover/Locked starts tonight at 8pm in Kavanagh College and kabaret noir exponents Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen opens at 8.30 tonight in the Glenroy Auditorium.

Dunedin art galleries have also come to the Otago Festival of the Arts party.

The Dunedin Public Art Gallery is hosting exhibitions by painter Colin McCahon and ceramicist Jim Cooper, and the Bouncy Marae installation by pop artist Inez Crawford.

Crawford created the work, which children (and adults) are encouraged to play on, during the final year of her art degree at the Otago Polytechnic School of Art last year.

Milford Gallery has a Rebecca Harris exhibition, Bellamy's Gallery hosts "Southern Paintings", by Anna Caselberg, Pauline Bellamy and Sara Addy, and the Nine Artists in Fiordland exhibition, featuring paintings, jewellery, poetry and film, has opened in St Paul's Cathedral.

Salisbury House Gallery pays homage to Dunedin's old Chief Post Office in the Exchange, Sydney artist Noel McKenna explores donkeys and bats at the Brett McDowell Gallery, Kelvin Mann's "A Flock of Prints" is on at Gallery De Novo, Maria Kemp exhibits at The Artist's Room and John Z.

Robinson's "100s and 1000s" jewellery exhibition is on at Lure.

The Ballentine's Festival Club in the Dunedin Town Hall continues to prove a popular late night haunt for performers and audiences alike.

The doors open at 9.30pm and it pays to get in early as tables are both limited and popular.

Christchurch blues and jazz pianist L.A. Mitchell filled the club last night and her fellow-Cantabrians jazz group Nativa Trio entertain from 10.30 tonight.


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