In the News: Tolkien saga turned into opera for Fringe - The Dominion

More on Fangorn: The Opera... If anybody has any images from this performance, we'd love to post 'em!

Tolkien saga turned into opera for Fringe
By Alan Samson
The Dominion - March 11, 2000

A Wellington gym instructor has stolen a march on Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings extravaganza.

While Jackson's hobbits, elves, dwarfs and wizards continue their film preparations around New Zealand, Jeff Harper has fulfilled a lifelong dream of writing an opera based on part of J R R Tolkien's saga.

Titled Fangorn (common name, Treebeard) after the Lord of the Ents -- a race of giant trees -- a scaled-down version of the opera will have its debut as part of the Fringe Festival tonight at 7.30pm and tomorrow at 5pm at the Wellington Performing Arts Centre, Vivian St.

Harper, also an artist, songwriter, amateur orchestrator and engineering draughtsman uses six players to tell the part of the saga leading to the gigantic battle of Helm's Deep, starting with the escape of hobbits Merry and Pippin from the Orks and their meeting with Treebeard.

The opera continues with the party of hobbits, men, dwarfs and elves reuniting with the wizard Gandalf, whom all had thought dead.

It culminates with the defeat of the evil Saruman at the Helm's Deep stronghold and his imprisonment.

Cast members are Maggie Clark as Merry, Pauline Kaden as Pippin, Theo Dorkizac as Saruman, Harper as Treebeard, Mark Brooker as Gandalf, and Charlotte Sutton as the evil adviser Wormtongue and the elf, Legolas.

Harper, 52, says his ambitious foray into opera is all about "something inside him". "I've written a couple of symphonies and one was sort-of-played. It wasn't very good, it was a beginner's effort. I haven't made much of a mark yet."

"But I'm feeling really good about Fangorn . . . I'd love to do the full opera one day, but somebody'd have to take it up."

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