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15 May 2018

Kiwi tenor superstar Simon O’Neill is back with the NZSO

Internationally renowned tenor Simon O’Neill will kick off a national tour with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in Hamilton next month.

An Evening with Simon O’Neill at Claudelands Arena on 8 June will be the singer’s debut orchestral performance of Richard Wagner’s famous song cycle the Wesendonck Lieder.

Wagner wrote the five songs to poems by his muse and lover Mathilde Wesendonck, while he was also working on his great romantic opera Tristan und Isolde.

Hailed by critics as “the Wagnerian tenor of his generation”, O’Neill has recorded Wesendonck Lieder with New Zealand pianist Terence Dennis, but has never sung the song cycle with an orchestra.

The NZSO will be led by acclaimed Dutch conductor Lawrence Renes, who has a long association with O’Neill and NZSO Music Director Edo de Waart. When O’Neill first performed with the San Francisco Opera in 2012 in John Adams’ Nixon in China, Renes was the conductor.

“Maestro Renes was a fantastic conductor of the Adams work and I can’t wait to work with him with this NZSO tour,” O’Neill says.

“I couldn’t be more grateful for this – Wagner, for me is the pinnacle. The composing of the Wesendonck Lieder appears in an incredibly important time in Wagner’s life and career.”

In 2018 O’Neill is performing with many of the world’s top orchestras and opera companies. His Wagner performances this year include Siegmund in productions of Die Walküre by Bavarian State Opera, the New York Philharmonic and Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and in the title role for Siegfried with Hallé Orchestra in Manchester and the Edinburgh International Festival.

An Evening with Simon O’Neill will also see the NZSO perform Wagner contemporary Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4. Known as the ‘Romantic Symphony’, it is one of Bruckner’s most popular works and his first symphony to achieve significant public acclaim.

Maestro Renes has long been an admirer of Bruckner’s works since he first performed the composer’s symphonies while a violinist in the Netherlands National Youth Orchestra.

He says conducting the world’s leading orchestras is like driving a Ferrari. “It’s a fantastic feeling and it’s the most fulfilling thing for me.”