On the Couch with Stuart Maunder

Stuart Maunder Arts Review On the CouchWho is Stuart Maunder?
Stuart Maunder is a boy from Boggabri, from farming stock, who always knew the stage was the/his thing. He’s been lucky. He’s been directing musicals and opera for the last 30 years. And he is also General Director of New Zealand Opera.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I cannot think of anything I’d rather do. This career has been so rewarding…. maddening, depressing, exhilarating. I love directing, I love administrating. I studied law, but please?! I’d be a terrible anything else.

Who inspires you and why?
Every cast I work with, every colleague in the creative team, the members of the company for whom I work. We are all working towards a goal. I feed on their energy, their passion, their desire to get it right, to contribute. My parents, too. They had no idea what I did but were totally supportive, totally trusting… taught me to give people enough rope while still having a chair close by to rescue if need be.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
In my own little way making the best shows that I can possibly make is my contribution to helping make a difference. The pieces I do are some of the great works of mankind… all I can do is deliver them fresh for a new audience… hopefully with truth, theatricality and passion. Then those pieces can do their work. The final scene in Vixen for example; what an overwhelming creation… you experience that and I defy you not to be moved, and to be aware of, and in awe of something greater.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I’m not a good holidayer … My favourite thing is getting to a place to work and to experience the vibe over a period…then they are all my favourites… even Canberra. Books on a beach are not my thing.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Without a minute’s hesitation… Restaurants. My current home town is Auckland, and it’s full of the most amazing eateries. I’m pretty proud to take people to Woodpecker Hill, Satya South Indian, The Deli, Orphan’s Kitchen, Café Hanoi, Amano, Cassia, Cazador, Ortolana

What are you currently reading?
Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance – a harrowing account of growing up in the lower socio economic white society of Rust Belt USA. Harrowing and yet with hope; we all have the ability to rise above our roots, to follow a dream… one just needs to know it’s possible. And that realisation usually comes from family and it only takes one. Inspiring book.

What are you currently listening to?
Cunning Little Vixen has just finished a two month long stint on my car stereo system… a tale of immersion before a rehearsal period. I also travel with my CD collection on a hard drive… most recently I listened to Richard Bonynge’s version of The Beggar’s Opera… how random is that? It’s Douglas Gamley’s lush over-the-top 1930’s film orchestration with great cast: Sutherland, te Kanawa, Angela Lansbury. But there’s always a G&S… last one was Utopia Ltd … Also three versions of Candide by Bernstein.

Happiness is?
Oh, it’s easy to be glib.. but the truth is I’m happiest when I’m working… as Noel Coward said: ‘Work is much more fun than fun.’ Please heavens, I’ll be doing it for a while yet.

What does the future hold for you?
Gloriously, more of the same! I’m happier now than I have ever been; my Tabatha, a gorgeous lady who convinces me I’m still young, the cat Kaspar and the work I love. But possibly most exciting is the arrival in Auckland of my new 6 month old granddaughter, Edie. Her mum will be in town with Matilda.

Stuart is directing Leoš Janácek’s Cunning Little Vixen for Victorian Opera at Arts Centre Melbourne: 22 June – 1 July 2017. For more information, visit: www.victorianopera.com.au for www.artscentremelbourne.com.au for details.

Image: Stuart Maunder AM (supplied)