Semele gets the green light for stage & screen

New Zealand Opera will be partnering with local indie production house Greenstone TV to capture a broadcast-quality film of Handel’s Semele, set to open on 29 October at Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Filmmaker Rebecca Tansley is leading the project as Director/Producer. Semele will be Tansley’s third arts-based film project, following feature documentaries Crossing Rachmaninoff (2015) and The Heart Dances (2018), which won the Focus on the Arts Award at Naples International Film Festival.

“New Zealand Opera produces world-class opera and I feel privileged to be working with them and with Greenstone TV to help bring their production of Semele to audiences both in New Zealand and around the world. The staging of this opera is particularly exciting with rich visual possibilities and a spectacular soundtrack that will enable us to create a world-class, immersive film experience.”

NZ Opera has ramped up its digital output this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Company found new fans in Level 4, when TVNZ 1 broadcast New Zealand Opera’s 2015 production of Tosca on Queen’s Birthday weekend. Subsequently, the film has also streamed on TVNZ OnDemand and via international platform OperaVision, attracting tens of thousands of viewers both nationally and internationally.

General Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess says the popularity of NZ Opera’s Tosca broadcast demonstrated the value of filming productions to share with national and international audiences.

“As one of the few opera companies in the world that is able to take the stage at the moment, we’re thrilled to be able to partner with Greenstone TV and Rebecca Tansley to create a broadcast-quality film of Semele that captures the quirky site-specific and immersive context for the production.”

Greenstone TV CEO Rachel Antony says her team is delighted to be on board with New Zealand Opera for Semele to enable the organisation to reach new audiences via film.

“This partnership reflects the kind of collaboration the whole creative sector can benefit from.”

“Capturing live performance in a way that works for the screen is a special challenge, and the Greenstone team is looking forward to bringing Semele to audiences beyond the five performance at Holy Trinity Cathedral. This is a very visually exciting production with beautiful music and I know we’ll be able to make something that Kiwis are going to love.”

The filming of Semele is made possible through the partnership with Greenstone TV, grants from funders Four Winds Foundation, Pub Charity and New Zealand Community Trust, and private donations through NZ Opera’s Voice Your Support fundraising campaign.

NZ Opera’s production of Semele is directed by Thomas de Mallet Burgess and Jacqueline Coats and features six principal cast members including Amitai Pati (SOL3 MIO) who is this year’s recipient of the Ryman Healthcare Dame Malvina Major Foundation Mina Foley Award. Pati appears alongside Wellington-based Australian soprano Emma Pearson and internationally-based New Zealanders Paul Whelan, Sarah Castle, Stephen Diaz and Chelsea Dolman. These singers will perform alongside the especially formed New Zealand Opera Baroque Orchestra under the baton of Peter Walls, the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus and members of the Holy Trinity Choir. The live production will take place at Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Alert Level 3 was announced on the very first day of Semele rehearsals in August and the cast and creatives continued to work via Zoom and in carefully managed small groups for two weeks before the season was postponed. Rehearsals resume this week, with the production now set to run from Thursday 29 October until 6 November. Limited tickets are still on sale at