Carriageworks and Sydney Chamber Opera (SCO) today announced the online world premiere of Breaking Glass , four new operatic works created by Australian female composers: Peggy Polias, Josephine Macken, Georgia Scott and Bree van Reyk. Following the temporary closure of Carriageworks during the COVID-19 crisis, these new one-act operas will be presented for the first time as a Facebook Premiere Event to be broadcast free to the public on the Carriageworks Facebook page on Saturday 25 April at 730pm.
Presented in partnership with the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Composing Women Program, the season has been 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.
“SCO was thankfully able to fully record this production – initially due to premiere in late March – before Carriageworks closed its doors in line with government advice around the COVID-19 crisis. The editing process has been a great challenge to marry audio recordings to video documentation, but we are immensely proud of the result and, even though it is a shame not to get the opportunity to perform to a live audience, it felt like both an enormous risk and privilege to be making something out of nothing when many around us were losing hope and the world was shutting down,” said Symonds.
Carriageworks Director and CEO Blair French said, “Carriageworks maintains its commitment to presenting new work by Australian artists and are thrilled to present the online premiere of 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.”
Jack Symonds added: “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.”
Breaking Glass features 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
HOW TO WATCH THE PREMIERE:
● To watch the World Premiere Performance please visit the Carriageworks Facebook page at: facebook.com/carriageworks
● The broadcast will begin at 730pm on Saturday 25 April 2020.
● Viewers can also visit the Carriageworks Facebook page in the week leading up to the performance to register their interest. Those who register will receive a performance reminder in advance of the broadcast going live.