This past week I've been following the debut of this art collaboration, which will span the next 52 weeks and showcased the works of James Tylor as its first feature artist. He specialises in the juxtaposition of Indigenous and European influences, particularly in the field of the culinary arts. Through 52 Artists, Tylor has shared nine recipes of his own creation, sourced from the Kaurna nation in South Australia and fused with modern culinary practices and ingredients (to form a cuisine he has named ‘Mai’). This has been enlightening and intriguing. I don't think anyone can argue that Australian Indigenous lives are not showcased enough, either in art spaces or to the general public. Many of Tylor's recipes use Australian variants of ingredients we are all familiar with. Scrolling through the list of meals he has created, I immediately want to try to replicate one or two. The fact that Tylor has been inspired by his own upbringing living in remote communities of New South Wales and the Kimberley adds another layer of uniqueness and personability. As well as recipes, Tylor has shared many of the common foods used by Indigenous communities through the 52 Artists Instagram. In one particular post, he shares the many different types of seaweed found throughout Australian beaches; apparently all Australian seaweed is edible, though some benefit from a little softening from a campfire first. Vegetables, herbs and spices, and berries are also some of Tylor’s contributions, and I appreciated all of it. My only education into the Aboriginal communities has been through high school, where I was lucky to study Australian History in Year 12. It gave me a newfound insight into their societal structure and history that I had been blind to before, and also deepened my appreciation for current social issues surrounding these communities. Through simple recipes, I’ve been encouraged to learn more about the Kaurna nation. As the first artist in this Australian collaboration, Tylor’s work reminds us of the first Australians, grounding us in the past as well as anticipating the future through his entwining of old and new practices. I very much enjoyed his week in this art project and will be following his work from now on.
image credits: 1. Abdul Abdullah, Breach, 2019, manual embroidery, 300 x 200 cm, courtesy the artist. 2. Abdul Abdullah, custodians, 2020, oil on linen 72 x 436 inches, installation view, courtesy the artist. 3. Abdul Abdullah, discombobulated, 2020, oil and aerosol on canvas, 30.5 x 25 cm, courtesy the artist. 4. Abdul Abdullah, Understudy, 2020, courtesy the artist
WORLD PREMIERE ONLINE OF BREAKING GLASS BY SYDNEY CHAMBER OPERA AND CARRIAGEWORKS website review: Katherine Kelly
Breaking Glass is the result of a collaboration between Sydney Conservatorium’s Composing Women professional development program and the Sydney Chamber Opera (SCO) and Carriageworks
It showcases a collection of four disparate one act operas by four Australian Women composers: Georgia Scott, Peggy Polias, Josephine Macken and Bree van Reyk. The works, directed by Clemence Williams and Danielle Maas, are based on literature, mythology, the environment, and the potential hazards that occur during the everyday commute
Originally scheduled for release at Carriageworks Theatre in March prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, Breaking Glass was first live streamed on Facebook on 25 April 2020.
Composer: Georgia Scott
Vocalists: Jane Sheldon, Simon Lobelson, and Jessica O’Donoghue
Composed by Georgia Scott with the libretto by Pierce Wilcox, “Dark Marauder” is drawn from works by Sylvia Plath. It opens with a hazy stage with three singers placed on mounds clutching portable typewriters with empty pages. It depicted the act of writing as a rather lonely pursuit with writers suffering from writer’s block whilst waging war against themselves. The work resolves with a dawning of hope.
Amidst the cacophony of instrumental sounds, I was amazed by the range of the vocal gymnastics in this work
Composer: Peggy Polias
Vocalists: Simon Lobelson, Jessica O’Donoghue and Mitchell Riley
This piece captures aspects of the daily commute where Polias has utilised Greek mythology to accentuate her work. We see numerous hands appear on the screen to the backdrop of counting to 100 in Greek. One lone woman traverses the stage whilst being stalked by two men whilst being encapsulated into the eye (To Mati) of Cyclops (Kyklopes). The journey itself is frenetic, disturbing and distorted. Some resolution of the dystopia arises with a new dawn with music reminiscent of Riley Lee’s shakuhachi performance on the roof of the Sydney Opera House at the dawning of the new millennium.
The Tent Composer: Josephine Macken
Vocalists:Jane Sheldon, Simon Lobelson, Mitchell Riley
The title for this opera is taken from one of Margaret Attwood’s short story anthologies though the plot doesn’t follow any of her narratives. The scene depicts three uniformed researchers examining specimens threatened by human progress – “collection of dead things”. The soundscape was metallic and discordant as were the voices, beautifully representing the callousness of human exploitation and greed
The Invisible Bird
Composer: Bree van Reyk
Vocalists: Jane Sheldon, Jessica O’Donoghue, Mitchell Riley
Against a minimalist background, three performers in formal attire perform a litany of names of extinct birds. The litany was cleverly choreographed in birdlike fashion with the with the vocals and accompaniment being largely in staccato form resembling bird calls. We learn that forest is now “man’s land” “not no man’s land”. The final “Extinction Aria” is performed to the subtle “rain” of feathers onto the stage – very powerful imagery.
This was truly an amazing work, tackling the issues of the time using very clever stage visualisation. It is great to see new work in the operatic milieu that veers away from the more traditional forms.
Thank you to the companies for being able to organise successful streaming of this work in such a short timeframe. Katherine Kelly
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Four female composers present one-act operas as Facebook Premiere Event
Sydney, Australia: 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.
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.
Peggy Polias is a Sydney-based composer and music typesetter. Born in 1981, Polias began writing music while in high school. She completed a Bachelor of Music (Composition; First Class Honours) in the Sydney University Music Department, graduating in 2003, and later a Master of Music (Composition) under the supervision of Professor Anne Boyd at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, graduating in 2010. She used the Matryoshka (Russian nested doll) metaphor to frame discussion and comparison of her Master's degree compositions. One such work, The Moon (2007) for 11 instruments, was joint winner of the 2007 Fellowship of Australian Composers/University of Sydney Women's Composer Award and premiered at the 2009 Kammerklang concert at the Sydney Conservatorium. Polias attended the Australian Youth Orchestra National Music Camp in 2010 and has also had works workshopped and performed by Halcyon, Ku-Ring-Gai Philharmonic Orchestra, Chronology Arts, and at the Canberra International Music Festival. In 2015 was awarded the inaugural Peter Sculthorpe Music Fellowship by Arts NSW and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Since 2015 Polias has worked in collaboration with Melbourne-based composer Lisa Cheney on Making Waves, an online listening project focusing on early-career Australian composers.
Josephine Macken is a composer, performer and artist born in 1997 and based in Sydney. Co-founder of SPIRAL Ensemble and the Lost+Sound collective, Macken is studying a MMus in composition on scholarship under Liza Lim at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music as a participant in the 2018 Composing Women Program. Her work has been performed by Ensemble Nouveau, Claire Chase, Onsombel Ensemble, SPIRAL, Ensemble MUSE, Sydney Chamber Opera, the 2018 Sydney Symphony Orchestra Fellows and Mivos quartet. In 2017, Josephine was awarded participation Ensemble Offspring Hatched Voices Program with soprano Jessica Aszodi and embarked on an exchange program with the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Josephine markets and manages new music showcases, programming emerging artists with the Lost+Sound collective, as well as performing frequently with SPIRAL and Onsombel Ensemble. 2018 and beyond will see her engaged in a number of interdisciplinary collaborations with fellow Australian artists.
Bree van Reyk is a drummer, percussionist, composer and sound artist who makes unconventional and tradition-challenging performance works. Her music resides in the intersection between contemporary classical, indie-rock and performance art and is equally warm-hearted, celebratory, and focussed on issues of equality. Bree has been commissioned by Sydney Festival, Sydney Chamber Opera, Ensemble Offspring, Canberra International Music Festival, Marrugeku, Urban Theatre Projects, Performance Space, Sydney Dance Company, The Letter String Quartet, Shaun Parker Company, fashion designer Bianca Spender, AGNSW, GOMA and the MCA. Her performance career includes tours and recordings with artists such as Gurrumul, Paul Kelly, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Synergy Percussion, Ensemble Offspring, Holly Throsby, Sarah Blasko, Marcus Whale, Laura Jean, Sally Seltmann, Toby Martin, Darren Hanlon, Grand Salvo, Katie Noonan, Oren Ambarchi + Martin Ng, and Anthony Pateras.
Georgia Scott is a young Australian composer, orchestrator and arranger, with a passion for music, theatre and film who studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music as part of the Composing Women Program 2018/19, where she was supported by the Doris Burnett Ford scholarship. She graduated with an honours in Composition from The Royal College of Music, London in 2015. Georgia's work has been performed in venues such as the Sydney Opera House, The National Portrait Gallery, St Martin-in-the-Fields and Carriageworks. She worked with Moorambilla Voices in 2017 and in 2018/19 with Claire Chase, Sydney Chamber Opera and Sydney Symphony Orchestra, both as a composer and orchestrator. Georgia has also worked with the estate of film composer Michael Kamen, archiving his scores.
ABOUT SYDNEY CHAMBER OPERA Carriageworks’ resident company, 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 staging’s, and canonical repertoire reinvigorated by the country’s most daring theatrical talent. www.sydneychamberopera.com
ABOUT CARRIAGEWORKS Carriageworks is the largest and most significant contemporary multi-arts centre of its kind in Australia. Engaging artists and audiences with contemporary ideas and issues, Carriageworks presents ambitious, artist-led programs that emerge from Carriageworks’ commitment to reflecting social and cultural diversity. www.carriageworks.com.au