Opera takes on special meaning during quake anniversary

Raemon Greenwood is primed to return to the stage in Toi Toi Opera's inaugural production of...
Raemon Greenwood is primed to return to the stage in Toi Toi Opera's inaugural production of Puccini's World War 1-themed Suor Angelica & Elegies at The Arts Centre. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Devoting her operatic talents to a Christchurch company’s inaugural production, a Puccini adaptation that ponders grief, loss, faith and salvation, is particularly poignant for Raemon Greenwood.

“It’s like a second family, your singing family,” she says as the 10th anniversary of her parents death in the February 22, 2011, earthquake approaches.

Earl and Beverley Stick were among the passengers killed when the No 3 bus carrying them along Colombo St to Christchurch Hospital was crushed by a toppling building.

“They loved opera and classical music. In the Canterbury Opera days we were all on the friends committee,” Greenwood explained.

Raemon Greenwood’s passion for opera provides an unbreakable bond with her parents Earl and...
Raemon Greenwood’s passion for opera provides an unbreakable bond with her parents Earl and Beverley Stick, who were among the earthquake fatalities a decade ago. Photo: Geoff Sloan
“We used to do the catering, dad would help out with the props.”

So a life-long love of music has proved therapeutic for Greenwood, whose role as The Abbess in Toi Toi Opera’s Suor Angelica & Elegies acts as a timely, though unintentional, diversion.

“We were supposed to have done it May last year, then October. Then it was ‘Let’s do it this year, let’s do it now’ and Covid has caught up with us again,” Greenwood said ahead of Thursday night's opening performance at the Great Hall of The Arts Centre.

With the Covid restrictions in Christchurch dropping to level 1 on Wednesday, extra tickets are now available.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied
Greenwood, who developed a passion for opera in her mid-20s, was anxious relatives would be able to fly from Auckland for Sunday’s finale, with the visit also dovetailing with a get together on Monday.

“I’ve got two aunts coming down, a niece and fiancé coming in as well. We’ve tied it in with Monday. We’re having a big family dinner and pulling out all the slides ... remembering mum and dad,” she said.

“I find I laugh like her at times, my nephew gives hugs like my father . . .”

Earl was undergoing cancer treatment when tragedy struck, though Greenwood felt Beverley would have been in the audience for Toi Toi Opera’s debut.

“Mum would have been here. My niece’s wedding is at Easter and mum would have been here,” she said.

Greenwood still has vivid memories of that catastrophic afternoon, she watched the dust plumes rise from her vantage point on Scarborough Hill and feared the worst.

“It took two-and-a half weeks before my parents were formally identified. But when I looked at the city I had this disconnection,” she said.

“Mum was really good with her texting. We heard from everybody else, so I thought something’s not right.”

Earl and Beverley Stick. Photo: Supplied
Earl and Beverley Stick. Photo: Supplied
Greenwood reckoned it took 12 months to come to terms with her loved ones, the pair of devoted explorers, coming to grief so close to home.

“In a year I flipped my grief to gratitude. I know a lot of people have found it very hard losing their loved ones . . . I had to be thankful for everything, thankful that I’d had parents for 50 years,” she said.

Greenwood described her role as minor though rest assured she will put her all into an opera based on nursing sisters in World War 1, and first performed in 1918.

“It’s a tiny role but it’s very heavy what you’ve got to say,” she said, revealing another touching aspect.

“When I put my cross down it’s for my husband’s great-great uncle Arthur, who is buried at Gallipoli.”







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