At the request of the EU Delegation in Wellington the Europe Institute at the University of Auckland organised a Europe Day celebration in Foyer of the Business School on the afternoon of Saturday May 11th. Although organised at short notice about 150 people came to an afternoon of films, music, presentations, displays, food and a wine tasting, all rounded off with a reception hosted by the Delegation.
On arrival visitors had a three-way choice. They could see the film A Whole Life Ahead (Tutta la vita davanti) directed by Paolo Virzi, courtesy of the Italian Film Festival and introduced by Associate Professor Bernadette Luciano, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Arts and a well-known expert on Italian film. Or, courtesy of the Goethe-Institut, they could see After the Fall (Nach dem Fall) a documentary directed by Eric Black and Frauke Sandig, introduced by Professor James Bade, Head of the School of European Languages and Literatures, among whose many publications ‘Fontane’s Landscapes’ gives an evocative contrast of Germany today and historically. Or they could enjoy the programme of presentations and music.
The music, covering a range of continental composers, was performed initially by a quartet of University of Auckland music students, Kuangda Liu violin, Lyndsay McDonald violin, Sophia Acheson viola and Francis Yoon cello, who continued to entertain into the start of the reception. They focused mainly on eighteenth and nineteenth century German music but including Handel. The highlight of the afternoon was a recital of operatic arias from Mozart, Bizet, Puccini, Verdi and Tchaikovsky performed by Richard Phillips, currently Research Fellow in the NZ Asia Institute, and accompanied on the piano by David Kelley from New Zealand Opera. His splendid tenor voice filled the building.
The presentations covered three aspects of research financed by the Europe Institute over the last couple of years. They began with Associate Professor Iain Buchanan from the Department of Art History who discussed ‘The Social and Cultural Significance of Food’, based on paintings of sixteenth century Antwerp, archives and the buildings today painted a fascinating picture of life and conventions at the time. The second by Professor David Mayes, Director of the Europe Institute, considered how an orderly end to the problems of Cyprus and the euro area could be achieved and its implications for bank deposits of New Zealanders under the title ‘Keeping Your Money Safe’. Finally Maureen Benson-Rea, leading light in setting up the Europe Institute, investigated ‘The Institutions of Wine’, comparing the wine industry in Europe and New Zealand, showing in particular how they were learning from each other in promoting generic versus highly specific qualities.
By this stage all three streams of activity converged on the Foyer for a tasting of wines from the University of Auckland’s vineyard, Goldie, on Waiheke Island. Heinrich Storm, the winemaker, explained how three classic French grape varieties, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Syrah were adapted to the very different island climate an conditions to produce wines that compete with their distinguished European forebears in the European market.
The afternoon then moved to the reception where participants were able to enjoy the same wines against an array of matched canapés. The Chargé d’Affaires for the EU, Michalis Rokas gave a short speech on current and prospective mutual benefits from closer relationship that is developing between the EU and New Zealand. He focused particularly on the role of Auckland, with its role in trade, investment, education and culture. David Mayes responded with the toast to Continuing Peace and Prosperity in Europe. The guests, including local MPs, members of the New Zealand Europe Business Council, the Auckland Council, the local European diplomatic community and those in the University and the city of Auckland interested in Europe lingered as the spirit of the occasion continued to light the darkness.
Throughout the afternoon the participants were able to enjoy a set of five displays, one by the Alliance Française and a second by the Dante Alighieri Society setting out the range of cultural and educational activities they support. A third, by the Europe Institute itself, showed its activities and publications and the role of the EU Centres Network in all New Zealand’s universities. However, pride of place went to the contributions from Austria and Poland. The Austrian Society not only came in local costume, with a vibrant display of the flags of all the nine states in the Federal Republic, but provided an afternoon long supply of home cooked Austrian favourites including two types of strudel and some Sachertorte. The Embassy of Poland with the assistance of the Polish Heritage Museum in Howick provided an extensive display of the work of the Nobel Prize winning poet Czeslaw Milosz, occupying the whole of one side of the Foyer.