Recap! We started our exploration of Australian works last term with the most recent. The double bill of new operas from epic myths opened Victorian Opera's 2021 season, featuring young Australian composers. Cassandra - blog post here - was created by composer Simon Bruckard and librettist Constantine Costi. Echo and Narcissus - blog post here - was by composer Kevin March and librettist Jane Montgomery Griffiths.
After diverting to the ways other, older operas have used classical myths, we watched The Eighth Wonder, wondering at its disappearance from the disappearing history of Australian opera. Visit our blog post here, for the rave reviews for that operatic critique of a culture that disappears its own productions.
We moved our exploration to operas telling stories of an older Australian history and culture. That's where we start this new Term. See our blog post for 'A short history of our black opera'. We started with the work of Deborah Cheetham. In 2009, she set up Short Black Opera, a national not-for-profit opera company devoted to the development of Indigenous singers. It produced the first Indigenous opera in Australia, Cheetham's Pecan Summer, which tells the historic story about the Cummeragunja walk-off. Here's that history and the story of the opera.
This year, she followed it with Parrwang Lifts the Sky, a little opera with a lot of big messages, which begins our new term.
Billed as a children's opera, Parrwang Lifts the Sky is colourful, musical, funny and sweetly moving, telling a traditional legend through human-animal voices.
'Short Black Opera’s collaboration with Victorian Opera encourages VO to widen its participation in reconciliation and to broaden the culture of the stories it tells, allowing for more Aboriginal voices in the arts. It introduces traditional Wadawurrung storytelling and language to a younger generation. Parrwang delivers an environmental message, as the council of birds are worried about the human destruction of nature...The opera is a work of aesthetic beauty in its set, costume and lighting design, representing stylistic elements of the traditional Dreamtime story on which the piece is based as well as the more traditionally operatic style of the robes which the council of birds wear.
Parrwang is available for streaming until December. Go to the VO website for more information, trailer and the link to the stream. Or for members of our group, log in to your free digital subscription, donated by Vic Opera, and view the opera from there.
In our second week, we'll look at the use of dance to convey Indigenous stories. And then we return to the strange short history of highly praised operas from Australian composers. More to come....