A British gypsy family who terrorized New Zealand for weeks during their summer holiday has inspired a controversial new show written in their honor by the country’s largest opera company and sparked a massive feud.
The Doran family and their associates left an embarrassing trail of dirt and destruction in their wake two years ago, antics that led to them being labeled ‘worse than pigs’ by the mayor of Auckland.
Several family members were convicted of theft and fraud and the Dorans were eventually marched onto the plane by immigration officers to be deported back to Britain, where they live among the Irish traveler community in the Midlands.
Now, however, New Zealand Opera plans to reincarnate the group as the stars of their next summer season in what they’re billing as a comedy designed to attract new audiences to opera.
A British Gypsy family who terrorized New Zealand for weeks during their summer holiday two years ago inspired a controversial new opera written in their honor (Photo: One of the family members during their infamous holiday)
The Doran family and their associates left an embarrassing trail of dirt and destruction two years ago, antics that led to them being labeled ‘worse than pigs’ by the mayor of Auckland (Photo: Debris left on the beach)
But the plan has already run into problems, with a third of NZO’s board of directors resigning after repeated clashes with the British-born director of the government-funded company, Thomas de Mallet Burgess.
Renowned New Zealand tenor singer Simon O’Neill said the idea “smells racism.”
“If that family were from Nigeria or Thailand, I doubt the New Zealand Opera would invest money to make fun of them,” he told Newstalk ZB.
“It’s middle-class snobbery from an Oxford-educated middle-class man.”
Mr O’Neill described the Doran clan as ‘clowns’ and said ‘I really hated those guys when they were here’.
But he said Mr De Mallet Burgess’ ideas “undo the years of work the company has devoted to making opera available internationally in this country.”
Several family members were convicted of theft and fraud and the Dorans were eventually marched onto the plane by immigration officers to be deported back to Britain where they live among the Irish traveler community in the Midlands (Photo: Several family members talking to police)
O’Neill said NZO wasted millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money and that the plan was a “knife through the heart” of New Zealand opera.
NZ Opera’s head of music Lindy Tennent-Brown also left the company after a clash with Mr de Mallet Burgess, telling him the idea of a gypsy tourist opera was ‘horrible’.
She said last night’s show was aimed at “middle-class snobs who want to laugh at people less fortunate than themselves.”
Ms Tennent-Brown, an award-winning pianist and voice coach who, like Mr de Mallet Burgess, has worked at London’s Royal Opera House, said the family’s behavior in New Zealand was “not only stupid and rude, it was illegal.” ‘.
But she said it was ridiculous to turn their story into an opera and was the brainchild of a “white, British, Oxbridge-educated man.”
‘Yes, the family is white, but they are also a minority ethnic group who feel persecuted in British life.
“There are thousands of New Zealand stories that can be told through opera, but instead he will put millions of dollars into it.
“I accept that the opera is about the reaction of New Zealanders to this group of people, but it feels like a post-colonial stab in the back.”
The plan has already created problems, with a third of NZO’s board of directors stepping down after repeated clashes with the British-born director of the publicly funded company, Thomas de Mallet Burgess (pictured), who has defended his project as “completely unique.” ‘ and said: ‘The people who know this project have found it fascinating right away’
Three members of the NZO board resigned when news of the plan emerged, led by Maori writer Witi Ihimaera, the author behind the Oscar-nominated film Whale Rider. The trio declined to comment on their departure.
Ms Tennent-Brown said the trio had binding nondisclosure agreements with NZO, but they were all frustrated by Mr de Mallet Burgess’ role.
“Every time someone dares to disagree with his view, he accuses them of being traditionalists and shuts them down,” she said. ‘He tolerates no contradiction and surrounds himself with people who know nothing about opera.’
But Mr de Mallett Burgess has defended his project as ‘completely unique’, saying ‘the people who know about this project have found it fascinating right away’.
Auckland Mayor Phill Goff labeled the tourists ‘a********’ in a radio interview, adding that they should not be in the country
He told the New Zealand Herald: ‘Apart from the essential comedic value of the unruly tourists being hounded by the media and the people of New Zealand…there may have been a more serious theme about people coming from abroad and by rage all over the country. ‘
Led by patriarch Larry Doran and his wife Barbara, 55, the group achieved worldwide fame when they were filmed leaving piles of trash on Auckland’s Takapuna Beach after a family picnic in January 2019.
A bare-chested small child in a sombrero hat threatened to “punch out” a female bystander who complained about their behavior and another tourist tried to mow down a girl who was filming the incident in his car.
The group left several restaurants without paying after claiming they found ants or hair in their food. Owners of a Wellington motel told how the family left it littered with Red Bull, spaghetti and cigarette butts, and foul-smelling poo.
A 26-year-old tourist, seven months pregnant Tina Marie Cash, was convicted of stealing Red Bull and sunglasses from a gas station.
But her brother-in-law, Larry and Barbara Doran’s son, Joe, said the family had been treated like animals and was “absolutely terrified for our lives.”
NZ Opera’s head of music Lindy Tennent-Brown also left the company after a clash with Mr de Mallet Burgess, telling him the idea of a gypsy tourist opera was ‘horrible’ (photo: the beach after the tourists left)
He complained, ‘We are a respectable family, we are a British family who, as a Commonwealth country, have come here to see New Zealand, to see the Hobbits and the mountains.’
The Dorans eventually left New Zealand after abandoning their car following a crash near the airport, which Joe blamed on a passerby shouting insults at them.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, the former New Zealand Secretary of State and Labor Party leader, had no sympathy, calling the group “a ********”. “These guys are rubbish,” he said. “They’re leeches.”
Back in Britain, the family was involved in property and planning disputes in Worcestershire, in which residents claim the Dorans demanded hundreds of thousands of pounds to leave their villages.