The 2019 Auckland Arts Festival (AAF) programme has been announced.
The biggest annual celebration of arts and culture in Aotearoa returns in March, to locations across Tāmaki Makaurau. Auckland’s many theatres, galleries, and unique venues like marae and the Stardome, will house some of the most exciting performance, art and music events from New Zealand and around the world.
As ever, the AAF programme includes theatre, dance, music and visuals arts. Taking place 7-24 March, the vast programme of over 42 individual events celebrates people and culture, investigates some of the most important issues facing the world today and offers audiences a chance to escape the everyday with a few laughs.
Back by popular demand is the huge Victoria Spiegeltent in Aotea Square, which will be the whare for a variety of music and performance events across the course of the festival.
In 2019, the festival has a renewed commitment to the celebration and normalisation of Te Reo Māori and will introduce a new programme, Toitū Te Reo, which will infiltrate many of the AAF performances and events in a number of ways.
The first event in the Toitū Te Reo programme and the official festival opening is a huge, free, waiata event, TIRA, taking place in Aotea Square on 7 March, to which everyone is invited. Think of it as a massive, sing-along/outdoor-karaoke, sung in Te Reo Māori and led by superstar musicians including Stan Walker, Maisey Rika, Ria Hall and Troy Kingi, in the heart of Auckland city.
The real deal - arts experiences to enlighten, challenge and delight
A breath-taking, widely-loved and fantastically fun contemporary interpretation of Mozart’s masterpiece The Magic Flute will have an exclusive New Zealand season in the AAF. The brilliant and vastly-popular production, which fuses the virtuosity of live opera with grand-scale, interactive animated projections has blown audiences away, won numerous international opera awards, accumulated rapturous reviews and played to over half a million people in over 22 cities across the world. Finally, it’s Auckland’s turn.
Part-gig, part-dance, part-theatre and wholly original: there is no other way to describe Grand Finale, the latest masterpiece by internationally celebrated Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter. As one of the centrepiece dance works of the 2019 festival, Grand Finale is spectacularly bold and hugely ambitious.
AAF audiences will get to experience the most talked about show of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018 and find out exactly why Ulster American took out the coveted Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Fringe Award. A male actor and director, and a female playwright clash with explosive results in this outrageous, confrontational and frequently gasp-inducing black comedy.
After playing to audiences across Africa, UK and Europe as well as triumphant seasons in New York and London, A Man of Good Hope will touch down in Aotearoa. An epic musical theatre production with 22 performers who tell, sing and dance the remarkable true story of Asad, a boy who must escape the ravages of civil war in his home of Somalia as he seeks refuge in South Africa, A Man of Good Hope is uplifting, enlightening and suitable for people aged 10+.
Two companies, one from the east and one the west, Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre and British physical theatre company Gecko, have collaborated to create a collision of two monumental pieces of theatre - Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Tang Xianzu’s The Peony Pavilion. The result is an extraordinarily beautiful and engaging masterpiece of physical and narrative theatre, The Dreamer,coming exclusively to the AAF.
Can poetry bring hope? Audiences are invited to find out first-hand at By Heart, an immersive and affecting theatrical experience in which 10 audience members are invited to, over the course of the show, learn one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, by heart, live on stage.
A brand-new production of the widely-acclaimed stage adaptation of New Zealander Tusiata Avia’s fearless and vivacious poetry collection Wild Dogs Under My Skirt will headline the Pacific work. Alive with the energy and rhythm of raw and lyrical performance poetry and oral traditions, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt is a provocative, enchanting and sassy examination and celebration of what it is to be a Samoan woman.
A brilliant and bracing new work of New Zealand contemporary dance by New Zealand choreographic visionary Ross McCormack will have its world premiere. As It Stands is a bold, breathtaking and powerful dance masterpiece which breaks new ground and reinforces New Zealand’s position as producers of exceptional contemporary dance.
A collaboration between the AAF, Te Rēhia Theatre Company and Auckland Theatre Company, Astroman is a funny and delightful coming-of-age story by one of New Zealand’s most respected playwrights, Albert Belz. Hemi Te Rehua is the king of the Whakatāne Astrocade Amusement Parlour but, while his there is no limit to the domination of the Pac Man and Galaga high-score charts, the boy genius hasn’t yet worked our how to beat the game of life.
Introducing the kids the power of the arts
Adelaide’s Gravity & Other Myths’ newest circus, Backbone, is a breath-taking show which goes straight for the jugular and leaves no viewer – whether young, old or in-between – unmoved. Elegantly staged, raw yet utterly disciplined, conceptually brilliant and awesomely athletic, Backbone is proof that performers can’t do the impossible without a little elbow grease and a lot of sweat.
Jelly and acrobatics are a wild combination and, in the gooeyest kids’ show at the AAF, playing with food is not only allowed, it’s encouraged! Jelly or Jam is a fun-filled family show performed by an award-winning husband and wife team.
A spellbinding piece children’s theatre by New Zealand’s Trick of the Light Theatre, The Bookbinder, which was born as a performance piece in an upstairs Wellington bookshop, will have its first ever season in Tāmaki Makaurau after successfully making its way around the world.
A richly imagined theatrical experience which premiered at The New Zealand International Arts Festival in 2018, Ka Tito Au: Kupe’s Heroic Journey will have its Auckland debut at venues and marae across the city. Kupe, the great Chief of Hawaiki, was a formidable Pacific explorer and navigator whose legendary journeys and exploits in his discovery of Aotearoa gave birth to countless stories and legends across the Pacific.
Inspired by the Patricia Grace classic The Kuia and the Spider, Te Kuia Me Te Pungawerewere is a free show which spins a delightful, comedic tale for little theatre-goers. It’s performed in te reo Māori, with plenty of gesture and movement.
At the other end of the age spectrum, Strut and Fret Production House’s “champagne cabaret” BLANC de BLANC will be the resident show in the beloved Spiegeltent. BLANC de BLANC is another sizzling, cork-popping, circus-cabaret gem by the creators of LIMBO and Cantina and will be a wild and fizzy night of breathtaking acrobatics, swinging tunes, bare skin and more than a few surprises. Recommended for audiences aged 18 and over.
Submerge in sumptuous sounds
The best way to learn a language is through waiata. For one night only, some of the finest singers in Aotearoa, including Stan Walker, Annie Crummer, Hinewehi Mohi, Moana Maniapoto, Rob Ruha, Seth Haapu, Tami Nelson, Maisey Rika, Whirimako Black and Maimoa will turn up the volume in Tōku Reo Waiata; a night of joy, aroha, te reo Māori and so much song.
Powerhouse Irish-French chanteuse Camille O’Sullivan will return to New Zealand with Cave, a new show devoted entirely to the music of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. She was inspired to create Camille O'Sullivan - Cave after gathering worldwide acclaim for her rendition of The Ship Song. This exclusive AAF concert will raise the roof of the beautiful Civic.
For the first time, the international musicians of the Grammy Award-winning Silkroad Ensemble will perform their genre-defying music in New Zealand. For one night only the dynamic, evolving super group will present a never-to-be-seen-again concert that will include popular jazz; traditional Vietnamese, Chinese and Kazakh music; Finnish folk song; Jugalbandi (Indian classical) and much more.
Frenchman Olivier Messiaen was one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century and everything about his astounding Turangalîla Symphony is exuberant, colourful and monumental. The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO) and musicians from Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) will unite to form a massive line-up of over 100 players and two soloists for a rare performance of the 20th-century orchestral masterpiece.
While there is a group of highly-accomplished international percussionists in town, they’re going to do a spin-off show at The Spiegeltent. Percussionists from the APO and the ANAM, led by the APO’s Eric Renick, will unite to perform Terry Riley’s hypnotic In C for a mesmerising minimalist experience.
A unique collaboration between a brilliant Kiwi songwriter and Auckland’s beloved planetarium, Stardome, will have its Auckland premiere. A Synthesized Universe by Anthonie Tonnon is a 360-degree experience in which audiences are transported to galaxies far, far away through innovative live music, surreal storytelling and astonishing images of the universe.
Adored for their shimmering songwriting and evocative alt-rock style which defined the indie-emo genre of the early 2000s, Washington band Death Cab for Cutie will return to New Zealand in March, playing an exclusive show at The Civic.
For over a decade, Baltimore duo Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally – aka Beach House – have produced sublimely hypnotic, pillowy and otherworldly music, synonymous with the dream pop genre. They’ll float into Aotearoa for an exclusive AAF debut.
Another dream pop collective, RHYE, will touch down for an exclusive show. Shrouded in mystery, the group first surfaced setting the Internet abuzz with ambiguous imagery, sophisticatedly sensual music videos and the lead singer’s distinctive, and now famous, falsetto.
Fearless, versatile, with an angelic voice, gifted American singer-songwriter Neko Case is a force to be reckoned with. Widely-regarded as the artist who defined the “country noir” genre, her smouldering ballads and southern pop-rock anthems will be showcased in an intimate show at the famous Spiegeltent.
Prolific and immensely talented DJ and producer Four Tet, also known as Kieran Hebden, has set the standard for electronic music for over 20 years and following the release of the brand-spanking album New Energy, the boundary-pushing Hebden will play a live set of truly ecstatic electronic music on 13 March at The Town Hall.
As ever, the AAF includes a comprehensive visual arts programme, which this year includes work by Louise Potiki Bryant, John Scott, Lisa Reihana, the South Auckland Poets Collective, Josephine Cachemaille and Alan Ibell among others. Please find more info here.
Whānui, the festival’s annual programme of community-led participatory arts events, is back for another year in suburbs across the city. The Whānui programme will be announced in early 2019.
Finally, the 2019 Auckland Arts Festival will once-again end with a fun family day of events, activities and kai, as the city bids farewell to its festival for another year. Whānau Day 2019 takes place at the Spiegeltent in Aotea Square on Sunday 24 March.
From the artistic director...
According to AAF Artistic Director, Jonathan Bielski, who is now in his second year at the helm, “There is a number of common messages in this year’s programme, many of which relate to the important issues of our time. This, we think, is a further reminder that the arts industries and artists across the globe are at the forefront in creating dialogue about the changing world we live in.
Thematically, the 2019 Auckland Arts Festival delivers messages about identity, gender politics, power, strength and censorship
"For some events, people from different sides of the world or different cultures have collaborated - another indicator of the power of the arts. Then, there’s stuff that is in the programme for the sheer fun of it. Our programme comprises events which talk to many different audiences, in a variety of languages - from Te Reo Māori to Cantonese and New Zealand sign language. Haere mai, Auckland, your festival is back in March and we can’t wait to welcome you.”
One thing we want people to know this year is that everyone is welcome. The Auckland Arts Festival is a place where people are invited to experience the arts for the first or 101st time
The full AAF 2019 programme is here