”our mission is to produce something that is new, that is Australian and has an Australian voice.
State Opera South Australia is committed to supporting the creation and development of Australian works. Over the next three years, 2019 -2021 State Opera will present nine re-evaluations of some very important Australian works: The Lost Operas of Oz. Creating new operas is, of course, a necessity for an opera company but so often in the push to create new operas many great works only receive one outing. We will shine the spotlight on three fine Australian works in 2019. Each opera is directed, designed, conducted and performed by Australians. Conductor Warwick Stengaards, champion of Australian works will conduct all three operas.
Our first Lost Opera is a production of Martin and Peter Wesley-Smith’s Boojum! Originally premiered by State Opera in 1986, this “light-hearted but deadly-serious choral fantasy” features a young Adelaide cast and is directed by the Artistic Director of the OzAsia Festival, Joseph Mitchell. The production is designed by Simone Romaniuk.
‘Boojum!’ will also give our winter-school students a chance to ‘strut their stuff’ on the stage of the Dunstan Playhouse. And that is just part of State Opera’s new Education and Outreach programme.
Later in the year, the historic Queen’s Theatre will play host to two powerful operas. The first is Christina’s World by Ross Edwards, a 1985 opera with a libretto by the great Dorothy Hewett. Christina’s World will be directed by young South Australian director Nicholas Cannon and designed by Melbourne based designer Christina Logan Bell.
The second opera is the haunting Madeleine Lee by John Haddock, with a libretto by John Haddock and Michael Campbell which premiered in 2004. This opera will be directed by Douglas McNicol, who also sang in the original Australian production. The production is designed by Adelaide born Designer Candice McAllister.
The idea for the Lost Operas of Oz was inspired by the experience I had directing three musicals for the Sydney based Company Neglected Musicals. In that scenario one quickly brings together an extremely talented cast, throw around some ideas, and get the chance to really look at a work, giving new life to the piece. So why not give some Australian operas the same treatment? There are hundreds of Australian operas out there, worthy of reassessment. It is time we put them in front of new audiences.
Every opera company worth its salt must perform the great canon of operas and we are proud to perform Butterflies and Traviatas and Bohemes. We don’t shy away from that great challenge, but we also don’t shy away from the equally important challenge of producing Australian works of the 20th century. Our credo is to get opera out there, to do as much opera as we can, for as many people as we can. It is important that Australian creative voices be heard. Part of our mission is therefore to produce something that is new, that is Australian and has an Australian voice.
At State Opera, we firmly believe that as custodians of government funding as well as benefaction funds from our valued supporters we must create work for artists, creative teams and technician and give opportunities for people to enjoy as many different styles of opera as we can produce. We believe we must programme for the largest possible audience, many different styles and subjects. These Lost operas of Oz are all challenging in different ways but all are vibrant theatrically and musically and incredibly immediate. It is important we embrace the great breadth of work out there, and in our little corner of the world especially. Thanks in advance for giving them a go.