National Identity in Contemporary Australian Opera: Myths Reconsidered, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

National Identity in Contemporary Australian Opera

Myths Reconsidered, 1st Edition

By Michael Halliwell


240 pages | 19 B/W Illus.

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Opera has been performed in Australia for more than two hundred years, yet none of the operas written before the Second World War have become part of the repertoire. It is only in the late 1970s and early 1980s that there is evidence of the successful systematic production of indigenous opera. The premiere of Voss by Richard Meale and David Malouf in 1986 was a watershed in the staging and reception of new opera, and there has been a diverse series of new works staged in the last thirty years, not only by the national company, but also by thriving regional institutions. The emergence of a thriving operatic tradition in contemporary Australia is inextricably enmeshed in Australian cultural consciousness and issues of national identity. In this study of eighteen representative contemporary operas, Michael Halliwell elucidates the ways in which the operas reflect and engage with the issues facing contemporary Australians. Stylistically these eighteen operas vary greatly. The musical idiom is diverse, ranging from works in a modernist idiom such as The Ghost Wife, Whitsunday, Fly Away Peter, Black River and Bride of Fortune, to Voss, Batavia, Bliss, Lindy, Midnight Son, The Riders, The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll and The Children’s Bach being works which straddle several musical styles. A number of operas draw strongly on musical theatre including The Eighth Wonder, Pecan Summer, The Rabbits and Cloudstreet, and Love in the Age of Therapy is couched in a predominantly jazz idiom. While some of them are overtly political, all, at least tangentially, deal with recent cultural politics in Australia and offer sharply differing perspectives.

Table of Contents

1. Prologue: Into the Abyss - Batavia 2. Failure: The Establishing of Colonial Myths - Voss 3. The Bush - The Ghost Wife, Whitsunday, Fly away Peter 4. Postwar Disillusion - The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Cloudstreet 5. New Beginnings – Bride of Fortune, The Riders 6. Cultural Renaissance – The Eighth Wonder 7. Suburban Dreams and Nightmares – The Children’s Bach, Love in the Age of Therapy, Midnight Son 8. Journey to Salvation – Lindy, Bliss 9. Silenced Voices Sing – Black River, Pecan Summer, The Rabbits

About the Author

Michael Halliwell studied music and literature at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and at the London Opera Centre, as well as with Tito Gobbi in Florence. He has sung over fifty major operatic roles in Europe, North America, South Africa and Australia and was principal baritone for many years with the Netherlands Opera, the Nürnberg Municipal Opera and the Hamburg State Opera. He has recorded settings of Kipling's Barrack-Room Ballads, Amy Woodforde-Finden's songs, Boer War songs, Austrailian WWI songs and Australian Shakespeare songs. His book Opera and the Novel was published in 2005. He is on the staff of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

About the Series

Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera

Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera
The Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera series provides a centralized and prominent forum for the presentation of cutting-edge scholarship that draws on numerous disciplinary approaches to a wide range of subjects associated with the creation, performance, and reception of opera (and related genres) in various historical and social contexts. There is great need for a broader approach to scholarship about opera. In recent years, the course of study has developed significantly, going beyond traditional musicological approaches to reflect new perspectives from literary criticism and comparative literature, cultural history, philosophy, art history, theatre history, gender studies, film studies, political science, philology, psycho-analysis, and medicine. The new brands of scholarship have allowed a more comprehensive interrogation of the complex nexus of means of artistic expression operative in opera, one that has meaningfully challenged prevalent historicist and formalist musical approaches. The Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera series continues to move this important trend forward by including essay collections and monographs that reflect the ever-increasing interest in opera in non-musical contexts. Books in the series are linked by their emphasis on the study of a single genre - opera - yet are distinguished by their individualized and novel approaches by scholars from various disciplines/fields of inquiry. The remit of the series welcomes studies of seventeenth century to contemporary opera from all geographical locations, including non-Western topics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General