Meet our new General Director

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New Zealand Opera has a brand new General Director, Thomas de Mallet Burgess. It’s too soon to drill him on all things opera, so we thought we’d ask him some questions about his life, tastes and career.

What would your autobiography be called?

A Rolling Stone…

What’s your favourite caffeinated drink?

A hot chocolate served at Chez Angelina on the rue de Rivoli in Paris. Not my daily pick-me-up (alas), which would be a Skinny (Trim) Latte.

Who are the three greatest musicians (living or dead)?


What are three things you know about New Zealand?

It is wet. And then not.
It is friendly.
It is on the edge of the world.

What project in your career are you most proud of?

Founding and leading Lost & Found Opera – a small company dedicated to staging unusual operas in found spaces where there is a resonance between the two. Productions included: The Human Voice by Poulenc/Cocteau, charting the suicide of a woman as she talks on the phone to her lover, presented to 15 people at a time in a downtown Perth hotel room (intense) and The Emperor of Atlantis by Ullmann/Kien, an opera written in the Theresienstadt concentration camp (the libretto on the back of deportation cards) and performed on the elevated platform (bimah) used for the reading of the Torah at Perth Hebrew Congregation Synagogue (moving).

Or turning up in a remote Spanish Village with some singers and the Brodsky Quartet and a few weeks later staging The Magic Flute with the local community.

What’s the most useless talent you have?

The ability to stare at a cast in rehearsal whilst thinking of what I’m going to cook for dinner that night and having them believe I’m deeply unimpressed with what they are doing. Actually, quite useful.

What’s the best holiday you’ve ever taken?

The very last holiday as a young adult with Mum, step-Dad, brother and sister in Austria skiing. Not because it went well. It was a disaster - all of us huddled into a camper van in Obergurgul. But because I still laugh at what happened when I think of it now.

Who are your ultimate dinner party guests, living or dead?

Herman Hesse
Jane Austen
Karl Marx
Albert Camus
Emily Pankhurst
Denis Diderot

Gosh! Barrel of laughs that would be!

What would be a perfect afternoon for you?

A slow punt up the River Cherwell in Oxford on a still English summer’s day (they do happen) with a picnic and good company.

What attracted you to this role with New Zealand Opera?

The opportunity to lead opera from the edge of the world.

Read the announcement about Thomas' appointment.