Hold on to Peace - Image courtesy Ira Mitchell-Kirk

Hold on to Peace - Image courtesy Ira Mitchell-Kirk

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Juniper Passion

"To see ourselves in the light of what we share, rather than what we hold separate, is the purpose of this work" - John Davies.

Tonight (21 June 2013) was the world premier of a New Zealand opera, The Juniper Passion.

Based on a book by John G. Davies, with music by Michael F. Williams, this dramatic comtemporary opera performed in the Roman amphitheatre on the slopes of Monte Cassino was both universal in theme and wonderfully New Zealand in delivery.







In the booklet outlining the opera John Davies writes:  

As a boy I proudly carried the fact that my father had fought in the two great battles of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force; El Alamein, and Monte Cassino. Of North Africa he spoke of the burning desert by day and the freezing star bright nights. Of Italy he spoke of the mountains, the ruins, the Italians who welcomed them and whom he and his comrades in turn fed, treating the chidlren with chocolate and small gifts. And always he spoke of the men, Snow from Auckland, Joe from Motueka, some of them alive, some having never come home. Even in the last months of his life I would see him turning over in his hands photographs of those long ago faced and places.

Michael Williams and I planned that the ultimate scene of the opera was to be a philosophical interrogation of the Nazi appropriation of Nietzche, Catholic mysticism of the Benedictine kind, and Kiwi self reliance. To interrogate this difference might lead us to an understanding of sameness. To see ourselves in the light of what we share, rather than what we hold separate, is the purpose of this work.

Da ragazzo ero molto orgoglioso del fatto che mio padre avesse combattuto nelle due grandi battaglie della 2° New Zealand Expeditionary Force: El Alemain e Monte Cassino. Parlando del Mord Africa mio padre ricordava il deserto rovente del giorno e le gelide notti stellate. Dell'Italia ricordava le montagne, le macerie, gli italiani e loro calorosa accoglienza e la distribuzione da parte dei neozelandesi di cibo, cioccolata e piccoli regali per i bambini. E sempre parlava degli uomini, Snow da Auckland, Joe da Motueka, di uomini sempre vivi, e di altri che non sono mai più tornati a casa. Persino negli ultimi mesi della sua vita ho visto che prendeva in mano le fotografie di quei volti e di quei luoghi ormai lontani.

Michael Williams ed io abbiamo deciso che la scena centrale dell'opera doveva contenere dei ragionamenti filosofici sull'appropriazione del pensiero nietzchiano da parte dei Nazisti, sul misticismo cattolico di stampo benedettino, e sull'autoreferenzialità dei neozelandesi. Interrogandoci su queste differenze di pensiero avremmo forse compreso meglio anche le similitudini. Mettere in luce gli uomini e ciò che li unisce piuttosto che quello che li divide, questo vuole essere il messaggio dell'opera.


*****

The late Douglas Lyne, my mentor for working internationally for peace through the arts, and founder of the MCFRR group, strongly supported working for commemoration, reconciliation and peace through literature, arts and music. This production would surely have satisfied him, involving script, music, dance and a truly international cast. A moving, sensitive yet powerful performance, the world premier of The Juniper Passion was seen by an appreciative audience at the Teatro Romano on the slopes of Monte Cassino last night.

The Juniper Passion can also be seen in Rome and Nemi, 25 and 26 June. 

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