Orchestra optimistic for new year

The Dunedin Symphony Orchestra performs during its ‘‘Halloween Spooktacular’’ concert of popular...
The Dunedin Symphony Orchestra performs during its ‘‘Halloween Spooktacular’’ concert of popular classics, held at the Dunedin Town Hall in October last year. PHOTO: DSO/PIETER DU PLESSIS
The Dunedin Symphony Orchestra will rip into the new year in optimistic fashion next month, with a concert titled "Celebrating 2021".

The opera-themed concert, on February 20, will be conducted by Kenneth Young, and will feature acclaimed opera singers Anna Leese and Simon O’Neill, young opera singer Rhiannon Cooper and City Choir Dunedin.

Dunedin Symphony Orchestra general manager Philippa Harris and marketing manager Pieter du Plessis are delighted to be starting the year in such exciting style, and acknowledge how fortunate we are in New Zealand to be able to hold large-scale events.

"We are doubly fortunate in that we have such amazing artists like Anna and Simon here in New Zealand at a time when we are unable to engage overseas artists," Ms Harris said.

O’Neill was meant to lead the DSO’s "Ode to Joy" concert last year, featuring Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, but this had to be cancelled due to Covid-19.

"So we are very pleased to have him here with us, and teamed up with Anna, for this beautiful opera-themed concert," she said.

Mr du Plessis said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic around the world, and the uncertainty it created, meant the DSO would launch its 2021 season later than usual — in late March.

Apart from February’s one-off show, the concert season will also start later, with the first international series concert set for June 12.

"We are starting later, but otherwise it will be business as usual, with three international series concerts and two matinee series shows," he said.

"And with such a lot happening in the first half of the year in Dunedin, including the Dunedin Fringe Festival, Dunedin Arts Festival, Wild Dunedin and the Dunedin Writers & Readers Festival, we think it will balance out."

However, the DSO will not be sitting on its hands for the first half of the year — as well as the "Celebrating 2021" concert, it will perform in two Dunedin Arts Festival events.

The orchestra will be part of the inaugural Dunedin Concerto Competition, working with the Dunedin Youth Orchestra to accompany top competitors in the final concert on May 7.

Planning is still being done for the concert season. Ms Harris is in discussions with New Zealand artists overseas who may be coming home to work with other orchestras and arts organisations.

"If we can work with other organisations to get tours in place for them, it will be ideal," she said.

Alongside its busy 2021 performance schedule, the DSO is on track to continue its popular education programme, including the DSO Academy, collaboration with the University of Otago and schools tours at the end of the year.

Although 2020 was a tough year for the orchestra, it responded with innovation, including presenting a socially distanced concert and the popular "Halloween Spooktacular" family show.

"We were also very grateful to our audience, major sponsors, and funders for sticking with us," Ms Harris said.

"So, the DSO is still alive and kicking, and excited to be starting the year with optimism."

The DSO’s planned concert dates for 2021 are: June 12, international series I; July 3 and 4, matinee series I; July 31 and August 1, matinee series II; September 4, international series II; November 26, international series III.

brenda.harwood@thestar.co.nz

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