New Zealand Embassy Rome, Italy

Verso the Juniper Passion

From the left, Michael F Williams, (composer), H.E. Ambassador Matheson, Michael Knapp (sound and stage director)

In collaboration with Associazione Culturale Colle Ionci the New Zealand Ambassador in Rome, Trevor Matheson, hosted a reception and mini-concert at the official residence on 20 February 2013 in support of The Juniper Passion, an Italian and New Zealand opera production, which is scheduled to have its world premiere in Italy in Cassino later this year.

The Juniper Passion is an opera in three acts by Michael F Williams and John Davies.  Set in the Battle of Monte Cassino from January to May 1944, it is a full scale multimedia production including a cast of six singers and chorus, dancers, chamber orchestra and 3D graphic visuals.

The events of the opera have special meaning for its composers with Michael telling the audience that it has involved personal journeys, reflection and growth over the period of four years from conceptualisation to realisation.  The libretto is dedicated to Richard Ferguson Davies, John’s father who fought in the 1944 battles, watching many friends fall.  Like so many servicemen, he brought back the remnants of war that survived in the minds of many servicemen for the remainder of their lives and were passed on to their families.  The overarching story of the battle is based on fact, but the characters are fictional.  The lives of a Benedictine monk, a German officer and New Zealand soldier intersect with fatal and unforeseen consequences.

With plans to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Cassino in 2014 progressing, it is most apt that the The Juniper Passion will have its Italian world premiere at the Teatro Romano in Cassino on 21 June 2013, followed by performances in Rome and Frosinone.

If there are any readers that are related to servicemen who were present at the battle of Monte Cassino or other battles during the liberation of Italy, we would very much like to hear from them and include them and/or their families in information sent out regarding performances of the opera in Italy and war commemoration events in 2014.

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