Creative Kōrero, Music

The Spotlight: Opera in the Garden

Operatic duo Angus and Anna Simmons have found a way to continue to bring us live music during lockdown Level 2. Fancy a spot of garden opera at your birthday?

The husband-and-wife duo are offering private opera concerts across Tauranga, bringing classical music to your gardens and driveways during Level 2. Performances are contactless and are restricted to the host and their friends, to ensure complete safety and compliance with Level 2 conditions. We can’t think of a better way to support our Bay of Plenty musicians while enjoying a truly remarkable occasion.

“Our arts practitioners are an enterprising bunch. This is just one example of how the arts is engaging with audiences in unique ways. It exemplifies innovation. Our sector is quite literally bringing creative experience to our doorsteps. I hope this type of thinking continues,” notes Creative Bay of Plenty General Manager, Meg Davis.

We caught up with the singers for a chat about the project…


Creative Bay of Plenty: Tell us a little about your history singing together. How did you meet?

Angus & Anna: We met in 2017 during New Zealand Opera’s national touring production of The Mikado, and the rest is history! Since then we have performed together on many occasions such as in recitals, in operas and at other private events. Anna was born and bred in Tauranga, growing up in Welcome Bay. She then went to Waikato University where she completed an Honours Degree in Music. Angus is from Christchurch and studied for four years at the University of Canterbury, also completing his Honours in Music.

CBOP: How has lockdown been for you both?

A&A: Lockdown has been a new challenge but one in which we have been able to adapt. We were living in Auckland but had to come to Tauranga after all our housesitting bookings (seven months worth!) disappeared overnight as people cancelled their overseas holidays. We are staying in Matua with Anna’s Aunt and Uncle who have been incredibly generous and kind to us. Lockdown has given us time to learn new repertoire and focus on the practical side of singing, however out of lockdown came our idea for Opera in Giardino as we thought of innovative ways to keep music alive during this time!

CBOP: What inspired you to keep live music happening in an outdoor capacity? How did this process come about?

A&A: Live theatre, music, concerts, dance – anything that draws an audience to a venue – was the first industry to shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic hit New Zealand. It will be the last part of New Zealand’s culture, and economy, that will reopen, whenever that may be. We gathered that people are craving some form of live entertainment (despite how good Spotify and Netflix are!) and so we brainstormed how we could bring our voices directly to them. We designed a poster, logo and threw it on Facebook. 12 hours later and the inbox was full with booking requests! It has been a crazy response but proves how hungry people for some love entertainment now we are in Level 2

CBOP: How are you ensuring the performances will be safe? What are the conditions of booking you for a performance?

A&A: This is hugely important. We have notified local police of our new initiative and every morning we have bookings we ring them and let them know the addresses we are performing at and what times. This ensures that no false breaches are reported. We sing for no more than groups of 8 people (8 + 2 singers = 10) and we keep at least two metres from our audiences at all time so we are not entering their social circle. We also have a caution sign (think slippery when wet sign) which we place outside the property which states that only residents who are attending the performances may enter. Angus has done a bit of work with Health and Safety so we have been extremely cautious and attentive on this.

CBOP: Is this something you might consider doing post-lockdown?

A&A: Maybe! We don’t really know which way is up at the moment – the past few days have been crazy! However early impressions are that there is obviously a market for it and it is super convenient for people. We are moving to Germany later this year (COVID-19 depending) but there is no reason why we couldn’t involve singers who are in NZ or continue the idea in Europe!

If anyone is interested in booking their own private opera concert please contact us at We have a few different options and we also have options for businesses as well. We are now on Facebook too, so if you could give us a ‘like’ on there that would be a huge help as well!

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