Early Days Victorian Fete with Young Friends of NZ Opera
1993 A small group of singing teacher and chairman of “Friends of Auckland Opera” Sally Sloman’s young singers entertains at a Friends of Auckland Opera floral concert.1994 The singers increase in number and debut at Sally’s fundraising garden fete in support of “Friends of Auckland Opera”, formally acknowledged as ‘Young Friends of Opera’. They provide support, entertainment and fund raising for Auckland Opera, soon renamed “Opera New Zealand”.1995 The age range increases, audiences appreciate the youthful and innovative performances, additional training and production opportunities meet the needs of members. Fernz Corporation commits to funding an extravaganza in the Civic Theatre to support the activities of the Young Friends group. A number of professional colleagues provide artistic skills and support.1996  The Young Friends of Opera commence their own fringe productions and training programme. They debut with Britten’s ‘The Little Sweep’ and Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘Trial by Jury’at the Maidment Theatre.1997  Special workshops with professional tutors, community concerts and a major production of Offenbach’s ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’at the Maidment Theatre – complete with magnificent flying balloon.1998  Young Friends of Opera  present the New Zealand premiere of a Shostakovich opera ‘Cheryomushki’ in the Maidment Theatre with terrific plaudits for our innovative production.  We are sponsored to present a unique concert in the Waitomo Caveswith Dame Malvina Major in support of the development of our unique youth programme. 4 Coach loads and all accommodation at the THC Waitomo Hotel sell out quickly at a high ticket price.1999   We present the Auckland premiere of a New Zealand opera ‘A Christmas Carol’, and receive acclaim for a festival of short operas in the Town Hall Concert Chamber, including Easton’s ‘The Snow Queen’, Menotti’s ‘The Boy Who Grew Too Fast’ and ‘The Telephone’ plus Mozart’s ‘Bastien & Bastienne’.   We are invited to join Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and the NZSO in her Summer Magic tour as professional supporting artists.  The group’s performing name “Opera Factory” is first used.

2000  We have sell-out seasons of our fringe opera festivals in Newmarket with Offenbach’s ‘RSVP Mr Cauliflower’, Rossini’s ‘Cambiale di Matrimonio’, Puccini’s ‘Suor Angelica’ and Menotti’s ‘Chip and His Dog’.  We present a winter season of Vaughan-William’s tragic ‘Riders to the Sea’ and ‘Sea Chanties’. A delightful season of Humperdinck’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’ precedes a second season of Norman’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Selwyn Theatre. We tour ‘overseas’ with ‘Cambiale di Matrimonio’ and ‘RSVP Mr Cauliflower’ to the Bruce Mason Theatre on Auckland’s North Shore.  We are invited to join Dame Kiri and Sir Howard Morrison as guest artists for their A Knight and a Dame outdoor concert in Rotorua.  The Opera Factory Trust is formed as a registered charitable trust with charitable donee status.   Dame Kiri Te Kanawa agrees to be the Patron.

2001  We enjoy successful seasons of fringe opera in our first “own theatre” in a converted factory in  Morgan Street in Newmarket including Menotti’s ‘The Consul’, Arne’s ‘Thomas & Sally’, Offenbach’s ‘Not in Front of the Waiter’, Williamson’s ‘The Happy Prince’ and Barab’s ‘A Game of Chance’ touring two productions again to the North Shore at The Pumphouse.   We end the year with a Mozart celebration season of ‘The Magic Flute’ and a youth production of ‘Papageno’. We are invited to present a floral concert in the Holy Trinity Cathedral to celebrate the Parnell Rose Festival.  We lose our anonymously sponsored space in Morgan Street, the building is sold – we move into ‘storage mode’ and we prepare to die!

2002  We present our final productions in Morgan Street including ‘Figaro Fever’ and ‘The Bride of Seville’.  An enthusiastic ‘Building Foundation’ appeal rescues us and we are blessed with many humbling and generous donations enabling us survive and start again. We move into upstairs rented premises in 18 Eden Street and a month later we are back in business presenting ‘Gay’s ‘The Beggar’s Opera’.   We receive wonderful community sponsorship from Two Double Seven who allow us to use vacant space in Gillies Avenue for our storage and creations department.  A second floral concert is presented for Parnell Rose Festival.  We receive critical acclaim for our unique fringe production of Puccini’s ‘La Boheme’ for 4 performances in the Town Hall Concert Chamber and with sponsorship from the Taranaki Savings Bank we also take it to New Plymouth with equal acclaim.

2003  Three major seasons are presented including a double bill of Gluck’s ‘The Cadi Outwitted’ and Menotti’s ‘The Old Maid and The Thief’.  We premiere a new New Zealand trilogy ‘Witches, Clowns and Promises’, ‘A Factory Opera’, ‘The Pleasure Garden’ composed by Philip Norman, commissioned by Opera Factory with funding from Creative New Zealand.  We also present a season of Wolf-Ferrari’s ‘Susanna’s Secret’. We provide weekly term classes for various levels and ages and guest at a number of operatic events. We celebrate our 10th anniversary with a sponsor’s night ‘The Opera Box’.

2004   With the support of existing and new sponsorship we provide extended training by special classes and workshops.  Fringe seasons are presented of Mozart’s ‘The Impresario’, our own creation of ‘NZ Opera Idol’ and Poulenc’s ‘Les Mamelles de Tiresias’ plus our usual winter lunch recitals, special events and ‘Opera at Zarbo’.  We have a privileged performance as guest artists at the launch of the Dame Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation in Aotea Centre and perform with Dame Kiri, Dame Malvina Major, Simon O’Neil and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra to great acclaim.  Our leased premises at 18 Eden Street are sold and again we face an uncertain future.  We present our final production with heavy hearts, but on opening night Sally receives news of another possible building further along the street.  Sally immediately inspects with a torch during the show and arranges for the trustees to give their verdict.  The trustees agree and a new lease is signed for 7 Eden Street and we commence plans for a new future.

2005   The building changes hands and is purchased by Opera Factory supporters who generously offer the same annual lease to us for an extended time ahead.  With the wonderful support of volunteers and donated materials we create an adaptable home and fringe theatre for our activities and audiences. Our programme expands and we luxuriate with ground floor access to the theatre and foyers, elevated office, green room, studio and kitchen.  A new campaign called L’Affitto is launched to assist us with the annual rent and we receive generous support for this unique donor programme.  Further classes and a series of celebrity workshops attract a widening age range and our productions continue to attract new audiences.  We celebrate our new premises with innovative productions including ‘Some Enchanted Evenings’‘To Russia with Love’ and Menotti’s ‘Amelia Goes to the Ball’,

2006:  We offer a summer festival to celebrate Mozart’s anniversary and present ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ to great acclaim (no doubt assisted by the inspiring workshop principals received from Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and John Cox).    Our guest drama company In the Shape of a Square presented Louis Nowra’s comedy play ‘Cosi’ and WhitecliffeCollege of Arts & Design present a creative design workshop.  We are thrilled to receive substantial funding from a new AucklandCity support fund and this assists us with residual rental and general improvements and outgoings for the year on our leased premises at 7 Eden Street. We present celebrity workshops with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Frederika von Stade followed by Jonathan Papp (RoyalCollege) and Alistair and Lesley Ann Dawes (UK).  Our grand piano campaign reaches its target of over $20,000 (all 88 notes generously sold out in two months) and we are delighted to purchase our own new Kawai grand piano. Our ‘Prendere a la posto sedere’ campaign sells out quickly and 70 new adaptable theatre seats are installed for our audience comfort.    Our winter series of lunch recitals builds an increasing audience of Amici and the general community.  We commence work on a September triple bill of Offenbach’s ‘Not in Front of the Waiter’, Barab’s ‘A Game of Chance’ and the premiere of William Green’s ‘A-a-a Tishoo’. A delightful Christmas Gala featuring celebrity guests Helen Medlyn & Patrick Power sells out and is extended into two nights – a substantial profit was realized to assist the annual training programme.

2007:  Orientation workshops for youngsters and senior singers in January and our annual lunch with our Patron Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. Weekly classes commenced for 3 levels and we presented ‘Opera by Twilight’ with a beach and holiday theme.  Opera off Broadway in March featured Ravel’s ‘The Bewitched Child’ with a curtain raiser of song cycles by Mussorgsky and Kabalevsky entitled ‘Now we are Seven’.  We were featured artists in recitals at an AucklandMuseum and Highwic’s ‘Music in Parks’ alongside Anna Leese.          In May our monthly series of winter lunch recitals commenced.  Classes and Diva recitals in June and July.  In August our Opera off Broadway season was a double bill of Puccini’s ‘Suor Angelica’ and ‘Gianni Schicchi’.  In September we were guest artists of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa for a private recital for executives of the ASB.  In September we premiered ‘Opera Idol’ as an open entry contest for school aged singers, with outstanding entrants and audience development opportunities.  In October our final Diva recital and Term 4 classes commenced.  November continued classes and rehearsals plus performances at Rannoch and the ‘Parnell Festival of Roses.  In December we celebrated the 400th anniversary of Opera, again featuring our celebrity generous artists Helen Medlyn and Patrick Power with our fund raising Christmas Gala which sold out for two performances. We have done many private and public engagements throughout the year and our activities concluded with carolers at Two Double Seven.

2008:  Early January the director continues work on the annual programme and prepares singers for our ensemble performance in early February at the Nelson Sealord Opera outdoor concert alongside Dame Kiri te Kanawa and her ‘friends’ Helen Medlyn, Simon O’Neill and Jonathan Lemalu. Orientation and audition workshops are on 23 & 24 January and weekly performance classes for varied ages and levels commence on 12th and 13th February. Rehearsals started late January for our April season of  ‘Opera off Broadway’: Kiwi Shorts –  featuring 6 short operas by New Zealand composers. These were presented as two alternating programmes and their varied style and subject matter were greatly appreciated by our audiences.

Our winter season of Opera Off Broadway featured the dramatic full length opera “The Consul” (Menotti), preceded by a youth production of Krasa’s “Brundibar”, in addition to our regular winter programme of “Divas and Divos” monthly lunchtime concerts.  Again, a popular and successful Christmas Opera Gala completed the year and played to full houses each night.

2009:  In February the year kicked off with Opera by Twilight, an early evening concert of operatic excerpts closely followed by our March performance season of Prima Donna by Benjamin Britten.  A new venture in April saw Jazz’n it Up at the Factory, where singers let their hair down to present a cabaret evening of jazz vocal standards.  Menotti’s “The Boy Who Grew Too Fast” featured as our school holiday show in April and in August we presented Ofenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld” directed by Linda Kitchen. Our annual contest for school students “Opera Idol” showed that there is still a passion for classical singing and the talent is live and well. Finally our Christmas Gala was themed around “A Night in Vienna” and ended a busy year in true celebratory style.

2010:  Our Opera by Twlight concert started the year as well as an audition workshop for new singers interested in being involved at Opera Factory.  In March we presented Four Comedies & A Funeral – a festival of short operas. These included The Telephone (Menotti), Dr Miracle (Bizet), Thomas & Sally (Arne), The Impresario (Mozart) and Riders to the Seas (Vaughan Williams). In May and April we offered Junior and Senior workshops in performance and stagecraft and technical stage aspects.  These culminated in a youth opera performance of Help Help the Globolinks as part of our school holiday programme with senior singers in the main roles and our junior singers playing the school children’s roles.  This comic fantasy about aliens, electronic music and tonal music gave us the opportunity to have some fun with stage, lighting and costume design. We also held our monthly Diva in my Soup lunchtime recitals and an Opera Idol contest in September. Our Christmas Gala – Miracles – included Menotti’s Amahl & the Night Visitors and a selection of opera exceprts based around miracles and enchantment.

2011:  Our year kicked off with another successful Opera by Twilight concert as well as an appearance at Couldrey House in Wenderholm.  This year was busy with the Rugby World Cup and Auckland Fringe Festival and we were involved in both.  Our March season of Benjamin Britten’s Turn of the Screw won best music production at the Auckland Fringe Festival and was followed in April by Jazzin it Up and a huge Garage Sale. Our July youth opera was Papageno (an arrangement of The Magic Flute by M Diack) and this time it was cast entirely with young singers from 8-16yrs old.  Our audience loved it and many young children were entertained by the show and the backstage tours afterwards. We held Junior and Senior performance workshops during June/July and also held our monthly Diva in My Soup lunchtime recitals. We had an Opera Night at Zarbo delicatessan in Newmarket in October, and also provided an ensemble of singers for Kiri Te Kanawa and NZSO concert as part of the Rugby World Cup events in Auckland. We ended our year with a Christmas Gala Masquerade with operatic excerpts from parties and mystery.