Think of the world’s most famous operas and, chances are, you’ll come up with a list that’s a bit of a boys’ club. Tosca, Madama Butterfly and La Bohème: Giacomo Puccini. Carmen: Georges Bizet. La Traviata and Aida: Giuseppe Verdi. The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Sydney Chamber Opera (SCO) and Carriageworks have teamed up to redress that blokey bias with the world premiere of not one but four new one-act operas by Australian female composers. Breaking Glass will present these works exploring women’s rights as a free-to-stream event on Carriageworks’ Facebook page this Saturday, April 25 at 7.30pm.
Sydney-based composer and performer Josephine Macken, co-founder of Spiral Ensemble and the Lost+Sound collective, will present The Tent, a dread-filled piece inspired by Margaret Atwood’s razor-sharp dystopias. Peggy Polias’ Commute riffs of Homer’s Iliad but drawing on the everyday anxiety of a woman walking home at night.
Georgia Scott, a composer, orchestrator and arranger, channels Sylvia Plath’s poetry and the battle for recognition in Her Dark Marauder. Drummer, percussionist, composer and sound artist Bree van Reyk’s The Invisible Bird translates the fight for emancipation into the plight of a rare breed of Australian parrot struggling for survival.
Presented in partnership with the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Composing Women Program, SCO Artistic Associate Danielle Maas and Clemence Williams co-direct.
“When I first started seriously thinking about directing opera, I knew there were three kinds of projects I was passionate about: female composers, new work, and opera that utilises electronic music and/or digital technologies,” Maas says. “I thought I’d be lucky if a production could fit one of those categories; never did I dream that my debut in the form would tick all three boxes. That’s a testament to the extraordinary wealth of talent in this country, but also to the quality of projects staged by Sydney Chamber Opera.”
Williams adds that the making and viewing of new opera is an act of revolution. “As a member of the audience, you’re plunged into darkness, surrounded by a terrifying abstract aural soundscape and asked to grapple with the ever-changing essence of the modern world. It’s no wonder then that new opera is the perfect breeding ground for innovative feminist work.”
One of Australia's most internationally revered composers and a professor at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Liza Lim, says the collaboration is of the now. “Opera is a form which has always been about ritualising power relations. These four new works assert the relevance of opera as a contemporary art form which can centre women’s voices.”
You can watch the performance on Saturday, April 25 at 7.30pm on Carriageworks’ Facebook page here.