Split Enz frontman lands Australia’s most ambitious operatic commission of recent years.

Three major Australasian opera companies have joined forces to commission a new opera from New Zealand singer-songwriter, Tim Finn OBE. Finn, who is best known for appearing in rock outfits Split Enz and Crowded House, is the latest in a string of pop music artists who have been engaged to create major new productions in recent years for some of the world’s most respected stages. These have included Rufus Wainwright (Prima Donna) Stewart Copland of The Police (The Tell-Tale Heart), Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters (Ça Ira), Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz (Monkey: Journey to the West and Dr Dee.) and Pet Shop Boys Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe (Most Incredible Thing).

Tim Finn OBE

The collaboration between Victorian Opera, West Australian Opera and New Zealand Opera will see the production, titled Star Navigator, touring throughout Australia and New Zealand from 2016. The commission has been spearheaded by WAO who have injected a generous amount of funding from the Department for Culture and the Arts in Western Australia to support the opera’s development.

Star Navigator will explore the story of Tupaia, a Tahitian star navigator who travelled with Captain Cook from Tahiti in the South Pacific Ocean to Batavia, now the Netherlands, on the first voyage of the Endeavour. It’s a narrative that Finn has been waiting to tackle. “The idea of writing a large-scale work contrasting ancient Polynesian star navigation with the more scientific method used by Cook has been with me for some time,” Finn says of the commission. This new work will be one of the most significant operatic commissions in Australia since Brett Dean’s Bliss, and the magnitude of the opportunity isn’t lost on Finn. “To have the support of these three major opera companies at this early stage of development is humbling and hugely encouraging,” Finn said.

Simon Phillips

Finn will be working with orchestrator Tom McLeod to realise the work, which will combine standard orchestral forces with traditional Polynesian instruments.

Details of the cast and other creative collaborators are yet to be released, but Star Navigator’s director is expected to be Simon Phillips, whose introduction of Finn to WA Opera Managing Director Carolyn Chard last year prompted the development of the major new commission. Specifics of the budget for the show have not yet been disclosed, but with a full orchestra plus Tahitian instrumentalists, chorus and seven principals announced as the forces at Finn’s disposal, the implied financial investment in this touring production will be significant.

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