Life of light opera honoured

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Ready for her next act . . . Named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s honours list is Gillian Gordon of Mataura, who has moved down from Wellington and is ready for her next stint in musi cal theatre. PHOTO: MICHAEL CURREEN

Even after 50 years in musical theatre, 82 year-old Gillian Gordon says she has “still got a lot to offer”.

The Mataura resident was named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s honours list for her services to musical theatre.

“I didn’t realise how much I was doing, to be honest.

“It’s almost an obsession. I just love singing. I started singing when I was 6.”

Mrs Gordon emigrated from England to Christchurch in 1966 before moving to Wellington in 1969 where she joined the Gilbert and Sullivan Light Opera Society and performed in a variety of shows.

“All the roles I’ve done I absolutely loved.”

Her favourite was Mad Margaret in a Gilbert and Sullivan show called Ruddigore.

“I got the most praise for that. I just seemed to lapse into insanity.”

As time went on, she took on more responsibility in the Gilbert and Sullivan society and even served as president from 1993 to 2001, and again from 2002 to 2003.

“You get to a certain age where there’s not that many roles left for you anymore,” she said.

However, in 2008 the society was short of a director and she found herself directing Iolanthe

While it was new to her, “I discovered that I could do it.”

She went on to direct seven more Gilbert and Sullivan shows with a total audience of more than 50,000 people, supporting hundreds of performers.

“It’s been a wonderful life for me. The fun, the camaraderie, the good friends, the rivalry!”

She also found she had a “god-given gift” for coaching young singers.

“I took great delight in teaching them and getting the best out of them. I really enjoyed doing that.”

In 2019 things took a turn for the worse when her husband and stepson died, and she spent lockdown alone in 2020.

She moved to Mataura to be close to her son who lived in the town.

“When I came down here, I was a total utter wreck.”

Being named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit was “something wonderful”.

This year was a new start for her.

“Don’t know what I’ll do. Might join a local choir or something.

“If I could go sing in the rest homes, I’d love to do that because I’ve got a vast repertoire of music.”