Breaking Glass | Media Release 3 Feb 2020

Carriageworks and Sydney Chamber Opera (SCO) will present Breaking Glass, four world premiere operatic works by Australian female composers: Peggy Polias, Josephine Macken, Georgia Scott and Bree van Reyk. In partnership with the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Composing Women Program these new one-act operas will premiere at Carriageworks on 28 March until 4 April. The season is directed by Clemence Williams and SCO Artistic Associate Danielle Maas, two women determined to expand the possibility for operatic storytelling.

Sydney Chamber Opera Artistic Director Jack Symonds describes, “Breaking Glass is the result of two years of working with four exceptionally talented composers whose voices are essential as opera moves into the third decade of the 21st century. The stories these women are telling through this endlessly reinvented artform could not and would not be told anywhere else, by anyone else. Opera still has a long way to go in addressing its historical inequities, but this project is the natural outgrowth of SCO’s commitment to gender equality in the lead artists making our work. Quite apart from representation, most importantly the quality of the music, text and possibilities for drama afforded by these pieces is outstanding and it has been a great pleasure watching these works evolve into an exciting and diverse evening of genuinely new propositions for the future of opera.”

Carriageworks Director and CEO Blair French said, “Carriageworks is committed to presenting new work by Australian artists. We are thrilled to present these innovative new works by women composers with one of the most exciting opera companies working in Australia today, Carriageworks’ resident company, Sydney Chamber Opera.”

Liza Lim, composer, ‘Composing Women’ mentor and Sculthorpe Chair of Australian Music, Sydney Conservatorium of Music: “Breaking Glass is the culmination of an intensive two-year collaboration between Sydney Conservatorium and Sydney Chamber Opera. I am grateful to Jack Symonds, Pierce Wilcox and the whole SCO team for their meticulous professionalism and above all, deep care for artists and art in every aspect of their work.

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, stories and perspectives through a multiplicity of approaches that show us new ways of being proximate to emotional power.”

Breaking Glass will feature four vocalists: Jane Sheldon, Jessica O’Donoghue, Mitchell Riley and Simon Lobelson.

The compositions are inspired by poetry, literature, mythology, and a rare species of Australian bird:

  • Commute by Peggy Polias transforms the saga of Odysseus from Homer’s Iliad into the prickling unease of a modern woman’s walk home at night.
  • The Tent by Josephine Macken creates a landscape of pulsating terror from Margaret Atwood’s knife-sharp prose and the tiniest fragments of wounded sound.
  • In Her Dark Marauder by Georgia Scott Sylvia Plath’s poetry inspires a woman’s battle for her identity in a spirit-crushing world.
  • The Invisible Bird by Bree Van Reyk takes the true story of a rare breed of Australian parrot struggling for survival and renders it a dazzling journey to emancipation.

“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. 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, whose audience take to their seats expecting an experience that will excite and challenge and provide something other than a linear, traditional version of a patriarchal narrative.”

–         Danielle Maas, Director, The Tent by Josephine Macken and Her Dark Marauder by Georgia Scott.

“In 2020, 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.”

–         Clemence Williams, Director, Commute by Peggy Polias and The Invisible Bird by Bree Van Reyk.

To request interviews contact Articulate, Julia Barnes, or Kym Elphinstone,

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