Carriageworks presents Australian premiere of ‘Awakening Shadow’, a new work by Sydney Chamber Opera 22 Aug 2022

Carriageworks, one of Australia’s most significant contemporary multi-arts organisations, will present Awakening Shadow, a new work by resident company Sydney Chamber Opera. In a first Australian staging, Benjamin Britten’s five Canticles are entwined with a new work by leading Australian composer Luke Styles, performed by a quartet of singers and four musicians in front of a monolithic altar-like screen. The work channels Britten’s crisis of faith through the singing body and will be presented from 30 September – 7 October 2022.

Awakening Shadow follows on from Sydney Chamber Opera’s previous successful stagings of Britten operas at Carriageworks with Owen Wingrave in 2013 and The Rape of Lucretia in 2017. Britten’s Canticles are a seminal portrait of his musical voice, written over a period of 30 years for his partner and muse Peter Pears. This production marks the Australian premiere of Sydney-born composer Luke Styles’ response to the Britten, interleaving the Canticles with his own work which forms musical and textual commentary and draws together these important pieces into a single dramatic entity. While Styles has made a name for himself on the international opera scene, having created work for the Royal Opera House in London, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Glyndeborne and many more, this is the first time his operatic work will be heard in Sydney.

Artistic Director of Sydney Chamber Opera Jack Symonds said: “For almost a decade, SCO has been practically alone in flying the flag in Sydney for Britten’s operas. As the most important creator of opera in English in the 20th century, it is scandalous that they should be so neglected in Australia. As the cornerstone and beginning of the chamber opera repertoire, SCO is passionate about righting that wrong.

“The Canticles are essentially small in form but epic in their interrogation of Britten’s own passions and beliefs. They are potent and elemental expressions of Britten’s relationship to faith, war, sacrifice, love, violence – with the male body and form as the site of ongoing enquiry. Almost diaristic and confessional, they reveal one of the 20th century’s major artists in all his complexity.”

Directed by Imara Savage alongside award-winning filmmaker Mike Daly, the hour-long quintet of chamber works will centre on radiant tenor Brenton Spiteri, commuting between Britten’s intense demands and the brand-new world of Luke Styles’ response. Spiteri will be joined onstage by Sydney-born mezzo soprano Emily Edmonds, who has recently performed with the Royal Opera House, London and Komische Oper, Berlin, alongside Sydney Chamber Opera Artistic Associate soprano Jane Sheldon and the company’s frequent baritone collaborator Simon Lobelson.

The singers will perform alongside a large screen that presents itself as an altar on which a new video work will unfold, exploring Britten’s complex and evolving relationship with faith. Australian Ballet School dancer Luca Armstrong has been captured in multiple poses using a technique called photogrammetry, using 120 synchronised cameras to then generate a 3D model that has been digitally manipulated in space. The resulting work features moving tableaux that are photorealistic yet hauntingly unreal, as if floating between life and death.

Carriageworks CEO Blair French said: “Carriageworks is committed to presenting new work by Australian artists and we’re thrilled to be the first venue in Sydney to stage operatic work by local composer Luke Styles. Sydney Chamber Opera is one of the most exciting opera companies in the country, as the engine room for new opera in Australia they continue to present innovative and important works that are not to be missed.”

Awakening Shadow
Sydney Chamber Opera
30 September – 7 October 2022
Carriageworks, 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh NSW 2015

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Resident company at Carriageworks, Sydney Chamber Opera, is a fresh and youthful answer to some of the difficult questions facing today’s opera industry. Louis Garrick and Jack Symonds established SCO in 2010 and it has rapidly developed into an important and distinctive voice in the Australian music and theatre landscapes. SCO is critically acclaimed for its innovative programming, musical rigour and strong focus on compelling theatre-making. SCO makes opera with a 21st-century outlook that resonates with a new, younger audience, and that shows how vibrant and relevant the artform can be. Their program aims for a balance of specially commissioned work by leading homegrown composers, the latest international operas in their Australian premieres, song cycles and cantatas in unusual stagings, and canonical repertoire reinvigorated by the country’s most daring theatrical talent.

Luke Styles is a composer prolific in opera, the theatre and instrumental music. His operas including Macbeth and Tycho’s Dream have been performed at Glyndebourne, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the Perth Festival. His operas have explored diverse worlds including cabaret, war and science fiction, and allowed him to delve into sensual lyricism, humour, chaos and darkness in his music. Luke was the first Glyndebourne Young Composer in Residence (2011-2014) and the first composer in residence at the Foundling Museum since Handel (2015-2016) and is currently the British Council Musician in Residence for Brazil (2022). Collaborations are central to Luke’s work and this has led to new works with conductors and soloists including Vladimir Jurowski, Mark Padmore, Hillary Summers and David Pyatt and ensembles such as the London Sinfonietta, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Britten Sinfonia, Philharmonia Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Commonwealth Games.

Benjamin Britten is a central figure in this history of British music. Blessed with tremendous imagination and facility he composed across all genres, though vocal music was always a central preoccupation. One of Britten’s greatest achievements was the reinvigoration of the English-language opera tradition, many of which are now firmly established in the international repertoire. Recurring themes include conflicts between the outsider and society, innocence and experience, moral good and lurking evil, beauty and passion.

Imara Savage is an award-winning director who works across opera, theatre and screen. She has directed productions for Sydney Theatre Company (where she was resident director between 2016-2018), Belvoir Theatre, State Theatre Company of South Australia, Sydney Chamber Opera, and Griffin Theatre, among others. Her productions have won multiple awards including Helpmann Awards and Sydney Theatre Awards as well as numerous nominations including Helpmann Award nominations for Best Director and Best Production. Her acclaimed production of Elliott Gyger’s opera FLY AWAY PETER for Sydney Chamber Opera was nominated for a Helpmann Award for Best Opera and toured to Melbourne Festival. Other opera directing includes: Kaija Saariaho’s THE PASSION OF SIMONE (with Sydney Festival), Philip Glass’s; IN THE PENAL COLONY and Benjamin Britten’s OWEN WINGRAVE for Sydney Chamber Opera which won Best Opera in the Time Out Awards. In 2022, Imara’s world premiere production of Mary Finsterer’s opera ANTARCTICA opened at the Holland Opera Festival in Amsterdam in a co-production with Sydney Chamber Opera and Asko|Schönberg

Mike Daly is a media artist, creative director and filmmaker, living between Berlin and Sydney. His award-winning work includes interactive digital installations; data visualisations; VR experiences; light installations; projection video art for stage performances; and traditional films. He has worked extensively with major cultural institutions including the Sydney Dance Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Sydney Opera House, State Library of NSW, Ballet de Lorraine, ACMI, Museums Victoria, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Living Museums and Google Arts & Culture. Mike’s work has been highly awarded, D&AD, Ciclope, the Webby Awards, the Good Design Awards and more. His projects have been selected for Prix Ars Electronica, Cannes Film Festival, SXSW and many other international creative festivals.

Brenton Spiteri is an Austalian-Maltese tenor and graduate of the Guildhall Opera Course. He was recently featured in English Touring Opera’s Paper and Tin as the Tin Soldier, as well as their productions of La Bohème and The Golden Cockerel. Previous engagements include Conte Alberto (L’occasione fa il ladro) for Opera Holland Park, for which he was awarded the Basil A. Turner Prize; Narciso (Il turco in Italia) Longhope Opera; Beppe (Rita) Guildhall Opera; Trac (Le Roi Carotte), and Soldato/Mercurio (The Coronation of Poppea) Opéra de Lyon; and Narrator in Schnittke’s Faust Cantata at the Barbican. Other performed roles include Tamino (The Magic Flute), Count Almaviva (The Barber of Seville), Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi), Telemaco (The Return of Ulysees) and Ernesto (Don Pasquale). He also won first prize in the Herald Sun Aria and was runner-up in the Mietta Song Competition. For the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, he has performed Britten’s Les Illuminations; and for Sydney Chamber Opera, he created the roles of Oscar Hopkins in Oscar and Lucinda and Ashley in Fly Away Peter. He is also a core member of Songmakers Australia with whom he has worked extensively as a recitalist and collaborator.

Praised as a “superb singer-actor” with a “coloured and thrilling” voice, Australian mezzo-soprano Emily Edmonds is a unique performing artist. Sought out for her interpretations of both contemporary and traditional work, Ms Edmonds freelances for companies across Europe, the UK, US, and Australia. She was a Young Artist with the Royal Opera House’s prestigious Jette Parker Young Artist Programme, from 2015-2017.

As an artist, Ms Edmonds values collaboration, innovation, and imagination. She is enlivened by rigorous music-making and interrogative theatre-making, and brings a broad spectrum of skills and experience to her work as a performer and creative. Ms Edmonds is especially adept at high mezzo-soprano and Zwischenfach roles, across both contemporary and traditional repertoire.

Her 20th and 21st Century repertoire credits include the title role of L’Enfant for the award-winning virtual production of Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, produced by Vopera and the London Philharmonic Orchestra in late 2020. This production won both South Bank Sky Arts and Royal Philharmonic Society Awards. Ms Edmonds first performed the role of L’Enfant at the innovative Komische Oper Berlin in 2019.

Earlier in 2020, Ms Edmonds performed the UK premiere of Venables’ acclaimed Denis & Katya, which she toured throughout the UK with Music Theatre Wales. Prior to this, she made her US debut with this work, performing as part of its World Premiere season for Opera Philadelphia. In 2019, Ms Edmonds performed the role of Varvara in Richard Jones’ Olivier Award-winning new production of Katya Kabanova, at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

In the 2016/17 Royal Opera House season, she performed the role of Agathe/Dargelos in Philip Glass’ Les Enfants Terribles for the Royal Opera and Ballet at the Barbican. In the 2015/16 ROH season, Ms Edmonds was one of the original cast members in the world premiere of Philip Venables’ critically acclaimed new opera 4.48 Psychosis, for the Royal Opera at Lyric Hammersmith.