top of page

A Britten Christmas - St Nicholas

Who was Saint Nicolas?


If the historical Saint Nicolas was magically transported into the present day, it is unlikely we would confuse him with the rotund, ‘yo-ho-ho’-ing figure of our modern Santa Claus. Yet the origins of the Santa Claus myth are unquestionably linked to the historical 4th-century patron-saint of children from Asia Minor.


Nota Bene’s Christmas concert with a difference presents Benjamin Britten’s treatment of the life of this historical figure, Saint Nicolas. The cantata was commissioned for a first performance in the non-festive month of July, 1948 for the centennial celebrations of Lancing College in Sussex. Based on a text written by Eric Crozier, Britten uses dramatic contrasts in vocal and musical styles to explore the legendary life of Saint Nicolas, Bishop of Myra. Written for a mixed choir, a tenor soloist, three solo boys and a small chamber orchestra, the cantata focuses on the character of this saint, and particularly on the many legends that have developed about him over the centuries.


Conductor Michael Vinten, well-known in Wellington as the conductor for recent productions by Boutique Opera and Opera in the Bays, has assembled an orchestra of strings, piano and percussion especially for this performance. The tenor soloist is popular Wellington-born opera singer, Benjamin Fifita Makisi, winner of the Lockwood Aria Competition in Rotorua and the McDonald Aria Competition in the Sydney. To reflect the drama of the work, it will be semi-staged by Wellington-based opera and theatre director, Jacqueline Coats, who is also a member of the choir.


The concert will also feature the Simple Symphony Op 4 for string orchestra, dedicated by Britten to Audrey Alston, his childhood viola teacher, and a number of other Christmas choral works written by Britten.


This concert is part of a mini-Britten festival by Nota Bene and Tudor Consort, A Britten Christmas. Tudor Concert will be performing the Ceremony of Carols and A Boy Was Born on the evening of Saturday 10 December.


Saint Nicolas

Sunday 11 December, 2.30pm

Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 24 Hill St, Wellington

Tickets for Saint Nicolas only – $25, concession $20

Tickets for both concerts - $40, concession $35

Online booking:

Nota Bene logo
bottom of page