The colourful life of Len Lye, the one-of-a-kind artist and filmmaker, is now the subject of a unique 21st-century opera.


LEN LYE the opera



LEN LYE the opera is based on the dramatic life of one of our most original artists. As an opera in the contemporary sense, it is a unique mix of music, poetry, theatre, dance, costumes, set design and film, with a cast of top national and international singers, musicians and performing artists. Eve de Castro-Robinson's lively music incorporates jazz, dance music and other elements that reflect Lye's art and personality.

The opera tells the story of one of the most colourful and important artists to have emerged from New Zealand. Born in 1901, Len Lye grew up in this country, moving to London in 1926 to embrace the excitement of modernism and the Jazz Age. In 1944 he moved to New York and lived for the rest of his life in its bohemian art world. He gained a worldwide reputation for his films and sculptures.

Along with his artistic triumphs, Lye experienced two contrasting marriages and ongoing battles with the art establishment. Despite these battles, Lye never abandoned hope or energy – he continued to struggle, to dream, to re-invent art – and to shock the orthodox with his views about art, clothing, politics and marriage.

When he died in 1980, Lye left his art to the people of New Zealand. His animated films and kinetic sculptures continue to excite imaginations young and old, here and around the globe.


Len Lye plays to packed houses and wins plaudits from critics (NICAI)

Brazil celebrates Len Lye (NICAI)

Len Lye: The Opera, by Eve de Castro-Robinson and Roger Horrocks (The Listener)

Len Lye laid bare (NZ Womans Weekly)

Len Lye, the opera opens in New Zealand (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Eve De Castro Robinson and Roger Horrocks (Radio New Zealand Concert)

Theatre: The Lye of the Land (NZ Herald)

Dr. Eve de Catro-Robinson on Len Lye: The Opera (bFM)

Theatre – LEN LYE the opera (Craccum)

Len Lye comes to life, opera-style (Taranaki Daily News)


NZ Herald

National Business Review


Theatre Scenes

Eye Contact


The Financial

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The creative team

To bring LEN LYE the opera to life we have brought together an award-winning and internationally recognised creative team including:

Eve de Castro-Robinson - Composer
Roger Horrocks - Libretto
Uwe Grodd - Artistic Director
Murray Edmond - Stage Director
Shirley Horrocks - Moving images
John Verryt - Set design
Nik Janiurek - Lighting Design
Kristen Sorrenson - Costume Design
Emily Campbell – Choreographer
John Coulter
- Manager of Sound Team

The singers

James Harrison - Len Lye
Ursula Langmayr - Jane Lye (first wife)
Anna Pierard - Ann Lye (second wife)
Carmel Carroll - Rose Lye (mother)
Lilia Carpinelli - Len's girlfriend, young woman
Te Oti Rakena - Art Teacher, Art Dealer, Art Collector
Will Barling - The Dancer
Darryn Harkness - Busker
Andrew Laing - Len's step-father
Philip Griffin - Len's New York art dealer
Helen Acheson - Ann's friend
Daniel Sewell - Len as a boy
James Roberson - Ann's first husband
Angelina Lynne - Journalist
Adam Thompson - Journalist and second exhibitor
Hanna Bryant - Assistant to the collector

The ensemble

Melody Lin (flute, principal)
Abigail Sperling (flute, piccolo)
Pearl Huang (flute, alto flute)
Alisa Willis (flute, bass flute)
Andrew Uren (clarinet, bass clarinet)
Roger Manins (tenor, baritone saxophone)
Matthew Verrill (trumpet)
John Gluyas (trombone)
Yid-Eh Goh (violin)
Olivier Holland (double bass)
John Bell (percussion)
Ron Samsom (drumkit)
Dean Sky-Lucas (piano)

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LEN LYE the opera was produced by The National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries (NICAI)

We would like to acknowledge the generous support of the following people and organisations who helped us to bring the story of Len Lye to the stage:

Auckland Private Education Charitable Trust, Creative New Zealand, Cut Above Academy, Max Gimblett, David Levene Foundation, The Len Lye Foundation, Dayle and Chris Mace, MusicWorksNBR New Zealand Opera, The New Zealand Film Archive, Point of View Productions, Ross Charitable Trust, Todd Energy, Unitec (Department Of Performing & Screen Arts, Costume Technology), Wallace Arts Trust, Yamaha Commercial Audio and David Yu.