What people say – 2022 Ihitai ‘Avei’a Star Navigator, Porirua

Ihitai ‘Avei’a Star Navigator

On December 9 & 11 Ihitai’Avei’a – Star Navigator was performed to a full Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua. After its sold-out world premiere in 2021, we were thrilled to see the life and spirit of this work continue. Here is some of the feedback we received:

…beautifully lyrical and poetic… lush and sensitive orchestration… enormously relevant.


Casting is one of the great strengths of this production. As Tupaia, Emmanuel Fonoti-Fuimaono reveals throughout his glowing, rich tenor voice and compelling, dignified stage presence. Experienced opera singer Paul Whelan’s commanding bass baritone voice is marvellous in the role of Cook, a stern, unbending character determined to maintain his status. The important role of Purea, lover and adviser of Tupaia, is sung by Marlena Devoe, a Samoan New Zealand soprano with a growing international reputation. Her voice is lovely, and she balances Purea’s authority and suspicions of Cook with her yearning desire to see Tupaia return safely. Schoolboy Risatisone C Malagamaali’i shows his theatrical skills in the mostly spoken role of Teata.”

Elizabeth Kerr, Five Lines

I have seen Star Navigator three times. It is seldom that I’ve experienced such concentration from the audience during a performance. I loved the variety of music, the marriage of western and pacific styles and instruments, the big sound of so many participants and the exhilaration I felt afterwards. Congratulations to writers, composers, soloists, choirs and orchestras in both Auckland and Porirua. And thanks to Opera NZ and the other sponsors for supporting this exceptional and groundbreaking work.

– Audience feedback

…the two leads are perfectly chosen: as Tupaia, young tenor Emmanuel Fonoti-Fuimaono continues his impressive rise, singing with warmth and a dignified heroism, while Paul Whelan gives Cook a stiff, angular physicality and a powerful and imposing voice. The role of Purea is a strong vehicle for Marlena Devoe’s rich, honeyed tones.

Max Rashbrooke, Stuff

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