13 Feb 2018

Opera’s such a drag…

From Upbeat, 1:00 pm on 13 February 2018

Drag Queens combine with opera to celebrate the colourful and fascinating life of a legendary Aucklander.

New Zealand Opera is putting on the two date show as part of the city’s Pride Week Festival.

The main character is based on Peter Taylor, former owner of iconic Ponsonby bar, Surrender Dorothy (and then Dorothy’s Sister) but also an equestrian.

Te Oti at Live Drag!

Te Oti at Live Drag! Photo: Supplied

Peter, who was HIV positive, contracted parasitic virus Leishmania via a sand-fly bite while working as an eventing coach at the Barcelona Olympics.

He was only given 6 months to live, but survived for 21 years living life to the full, including winning the Queen of the Whole Universe Drag Pageant while being profoundly deaf and blind – a side effect of the treatment for his illness.

The story, turned into an opera by Claire Scholes, was first presented a few years ago and caught the attention of New Zealand Opera’s Stuart Maunder. “[It was] extremely intriguing. It “had legs”,” Maunder says. “He’s extraordinary. It’s such an incredible story.

“Reality is often stranger … as they say.”

 The opera has been further developed by Claire for Pride week.

While society hasn’t always been kind to the LGBTQ+ communities, Claire says she wanted to tell the story in a way that could be understood by all. “[it’s] drag for the whole family!” she laughs. ”If my 7 year old son comes along to one of the rehearsals I want him to watch it and enjoy it.”

The cast consists of three queens and three “voice doubles”, with a live jazz trio. The queens will lip synch to the live performers.

Live Drag! – An Opera in The Making, on at Q Theatre Feb 15-16 as part of the Auckland Pride Festival.