Inspired by the song Tūtira mai ngā iwi, Transfigured Night is the opening performance of the Festival, staged by Lemi Ponifasio in a collaboration with his company MAU Wahine, the Hawke’s Bay Orchestra, Kahurangi Dance Theatre and our local community. Lemi Ponifasio is a sought-after theatre, opera, dance and visual artist, who has staged his ground-breaking works at prestigious arts festivals such as the Avignon Festival (2014, 2017), the Ruhr Triennale (2010, 2014) and the Venice Biennale (2003, 2007, 2015).
Transfigured Night is a community gathering at this festival time to welcome each other, to reflect, to celebrate, to stand together, and to challenge ourselves to radically transfigure our differences and move to greater unity through empathy, compassion and aroha. The work also brings together a poem of the same name by German poet Richard Dehmel (1863–1920) and music of the same name composed by one of the most radical composers of 20th century, Arnold Schönberg (1874 -1951).
Schönberg’s Transfigured Night premiered to controversy in 1902. Today it is celebrated as one of the composer’s most melodic and accessible pieces – dark, tense, atmospheric, chromatic, and dramatic in equal measure. Schönberg’s Transfigured Night was inspired by Richard Dehmel’s 1896 poem that depicts two lovers walking through a shadowy forest on a cold night. By the light of the moon, the woman reveals a dark secret: she is carrying another man’s child. The man reflects, then vows to the woman that their transformative love will transfigure the child and make it their own. He assures her their love is strong enough to unite them. Thus the man, the woman, her unborn child and the night, are all transfigured and transformed.
Tūtira mai ngā iwi was written in the 1950s by Te Amorangi Wi Te Tau Huata, inspired by the drive with his children from Wairoa, passing Lake Tūtira. He would sing the lyrics and his children would repeat them, learning the song as they drove to Napier. Wiremu’s message to his children was to come together to support each other. He later used this song to promote Moral Re-armament, uniting different cultures. Tūtira mai ngā iwi is also a song that carries the dreams and aspirations to come together and to be unified as Kahungunu in order to drive social, cultural and economic change in our region. Tūtira mai ngā iwi is a call sung every day throughout Aotearoa and it is our catch cry for transfiguration and unity at the 2020 Harcourts Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival.
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