“I wanted a story that was distinctly Australian.”

George PlamerComposer - Cloudstreet 2016

My ambition as a composer has always been to write an opera. by 2010, I felt that I was equipped to undertake a serious project. I wanted a story that was distinctly Australian; I wanted to write something that could not have been written anywhere else. I wanted a story that was rich in character, in action, in emotion, which encompassed darkness and light, which was eloquent and poetic… and funny.

In a word, I wanted to do Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet.

It took some time for me to persuade Tim’s literary agent that this was a serious project with some prospect of actually being produced on stage. The catalyst was Gale Edwards. When a director of such international stature gets behind something – as Gale so energetically and enthusiastically did – then it has to be taken seriously.

As Gale described, the process of creating Cloudstreet the opera has been long and arduous. Starting with my libretto and some scenes set to music, we worked steadily on shaping the work for the stage. Gale would tell me, with the utmost courtesy, that the scene I had just written (and was very proud of) just wouldn’t work on the stage. She would explain what was amiss and I was sent away to do it again. What an immense stroke of good fortune for me to have such a genius of the stage as dramaturg.

The style of the music was dictated by the character of the novel itself. The people who inhabit Cloudstreet are ordinary battlers; I couldn’t conceive of them singing in a style which was heavily atonal. It’s true that the music of Cloudstreet is discordant in parts, where it needs to be, but mostly it’s tonally based and it’s melodic. I would like to think that the music speaks directly to the heart, just as Tim’s novel does.

Cloudstreet the opera would never have seen the stage but for the contributions of so many people, too numerous for me to thank individually. But special thanks are due to State Opera who championed this work and brought it to life.

But my everlasting gratitude is due to my wife, Penelope, who has supported and encouraged me throughout. Her burden has been greater than mine. My work in Cloudstreet the opera is dedicated to her with my love.

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