Penelope Sleeps | Media Release 31 Jan 2020

Carriageworks presents the Australian premiere of Penelope Sleeps as part of the Keir Choreographic Award program on 10-11 March.

Working with composer and performer Matteo Fargion, the Norwegian artist Mette Edvardsen is venturing into the world of opera for the first time but with a performance in which opera is the starting point, without any of its traditional grand gestures and narrative.

Throughout Homer’s The Odyssey, the hero’s wife Penelope stays at home awaiting her husband’s return from the Trojan war. Her long wait, refusing other men’s advances, and passing the time by weaving, is one of the inspirations behind Penelope Sleeps, a work centring on the abstract relationship between voice and music, space and scale. Edvardsen’s interest in language, and choreography and music as language, leads her to explore Penelope’s inner voice and interior world, a mythical doorway to a place beyond narrative and destiny.

Carriageworks CEO Blair French said “Carriageworks is excited to be presenting this work from respected artist and choreographer Mette Edvardsen. It is a work that both draws and departs from artistic traditions.  In presenting Penelope Sleeps as part of the Keir Choreographic Award public program we are both strengthening our relationship with leading international artists and forging connections between their practices and those of Australian practitioners.”

Mette Edvardsen describes, “In Penelope Sleeps the experimental approach and work with the format of the medium is still in question. Rather than alluding to operatic images we think of drawing lines to trace a horizon. The text is written in prose form, like an essay. Essay, from the French essayer, means to try, to attempt. Opera in Italian means to work, to labour. In this attempt to work a space opens up, bringing the two artists into unknown landscapes while at the same time allowing them to pursue their own artistic paths.”

“The result is a special theatre experience that perhaps most resembles the reading of a good book, one that doesn’t want to carry you along and that steers you towards a waking involvement without any rhetorical display. It is in the choice of this type of thoughtful engagement of the audience, beyond any trace of moral beckoning, that lies the political relevance of Penelope Sleeps: this performance creates a utopian fold in time.” Rudi Laermans for ETCETERA.


The Keir Choreographic Award public program, with its array of national and international jury members, panellists, guests and workshop leaders, will run concurrently with the performance seasons in both Melbourne and Sydney, providing a vital context for related and relevant discourse, reflection and debate.  This year Carriageworks invited Sydney based artist and writer Sarah Rodigari and 2014 Keir Choreographic Award Commissioned artist Brooke Stamp to be Guest Curators for the program. The entire Carriageworks public program will be announced on 10 February.

Penelope Sleeps – an opera by Mette Edvardsen and Matteo Fargion

Text: Mette Edvardsen

Music: Matteo Fargion

Performed by Mette Edvardsen, Matteo Fargion and Angela Hicks

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