Audiences are invited to cross the threshold and step inside the sandstone walls of the defunct yet iconic Mortuary Station at Central for this site-specific performance. Some of the most beloved and recognisable operatic bangers in history have been cherry-picked for this original production and seamlessly woven into a contemporary narrative. Track Works transports you into the lives of five commuters grappling with everyday challenges during their delayed journeys home.
I mean, if you’ve never had the urge to belt out a heart-wrenching aria during a disrupted commute, are you even a true Sydneysider?
Under the award-winning direction of Clemence Williams (Earth.Voice.Body), this experiential show celebrates the great equalising power of Sydney’s public transport system, and reflects on the human spirit’s capacity for renewal and our enduring connection to core values. Performances aside, this is a rare opportunity for you to see inside this heritage building – a stunning example of neo-gothic architecture, dotted with uniquely hand-carved cherubs.
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“I think anyone that's caught a train or driven past [Mortuary Station] has probably gone, ‘I wonder what that is?’ It has an incredible history, it's over 150 years old now,” explains artistic director and playwright Thomas De Angelis.
“The first colonial cemetery in Sydney was at Town Hall, and when they built Town Hall they exhumed the bodies and took them to Central, and they built a railway line from here [Mortuary Station] straight to Rookwood Cemetery. If someone died in Sydney from the 1850s onwards, you would put your loved one in a coffin on a train at this station, and there was a receiving station that was exactly the same as this at Rookwood Cemetery, and it would leave two times a day.”
“When we mass-adopted cars in the ’30s, around the same time as the Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened, there was just no need for that type of [rail] transport anymore. People were using hearses and driving the bodies out there, so the railway line specifically wasn't needed anymore. Then it was used briefly as a commuter station, and then it was just closed. It reopened again, some time in the mid-’70s until the mid ’80s, as a pancake roller-skating restaurant, and the restaurant was an old-school carriage that sat on the railway tracks, and then that closed.”
Track Works has been developed by BBT, the same theatre company that brought opera to one of the most beautiful public toilets in Sydney (The QVB’s Ladies’ Powder Room). This production boasts a stellar ensemble cast of Australia’s luminous young opera singers including Lily Harper (Cendrillon, Madama Butterfly), Eden Shifroni (La Bohème), Sophie Mohler (L’incorinazione di Poppea), Anastasia Gall (Die Zuberflöte) and Michael Kaufmann (The Coronation of Poppea).
You don’t see a lot of opera in Australia that isn’t performed at the Opera House by a major company like Opera Australia. BBT clearly has a passion for bringing opera to broader audiences; Clemence Williams explained this passion to Time Out:
“It's a voice in space. It is the simplest version of entertaining and communicating artistically and creatively, and I think that simplicity, that honesty of communication, should be for everyone. And I suppose that's what I'm passionate about, and bringing the art form to everyone.”