Witi Ihimaera to write music drama about the Waikato River

Opera and kapa haka will come together in a new music drama from acclaimed Māori writer Witi Ihimaera, composer Janet Jennings, Tom Roa of Tainui, and the University of Waikato staff and students.

Flowing Water: A story of the Waikato River, tells the story of the Waikato River and those it has nurtured throughout time. 

Writer Witi Ihimaera says he was inspired to write the music drama as the story is a thrilling one and ideal for development as a musical drama. 

“This work has the potential to reflect, through one regional history, the history of New Zealand settlement itself” says Ihimaera. 

The music drama will begin with a mythic taniwha awaiting the arrival of the Tainui waka. It will also tell the story of how the iwi's name was formed. 

“I am honoured that Tom Roa and the University kapa haka group, Te Waiora o Te Whare Wānanga, are ensuring that the work thoroughly integrates Tainui kawa, tikanga and history into the script, music and production” says Ihimaera. 

The first show will be presented early next year and is later expected to showcase at other events. 

One scene of the performance has been written and will be performed at the University of Waikato, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts this month.  

Other artists involved in preparing this scene for performance include Rachael Griffiths-Hughes, Francis Cowan, Tiahuia Ropitini, James Tennant, Dame Malvina Major and Glenese Blake.  

Composer Janet Jennings says she is excited the production has the ability to be shown internationally. She also says the drama will display the breadth of talent in the Waikato area. 

“It is wonderful that we have a writer of such a high calibre helping us to tell our story.  Witi Ihimaera is able to wrap his magic around the story of the Waikato River, and bring it to life for many to enjoy” says Jennings.