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Australian music for opera, ballet and theatre
Colourful Sydney identity Isaac Nathan wrote Don John of Austria, the first ‘Australian’ opera, in the late 1840s, though William Vincent Wallace also wrote some of his West End hit, Maritana, in Sydney at the same time. Australian composers of opera, like Arthur Benjamin, Malcolm Williamson or Peggy Glanville-Hicks, tended to have their successes abroad, though Alfred Hill, Edgar Bainton and others made local contributions. With the creation of the Australian Opera (now Opera Australia) and various state companies the situation improved, especially when companies commissioned works for the Sydney Opera House and Victorian State Theatre. While commissions for full-scale works are still rare, recently composers have benefited from the proliferation of smaller companies such as ChamberMade, Sydney Metropolitan Opera and IHOS, dedicated to contemporary work.
Australia has also produced fine composers of incidental music for theatre and film, including Nigel Westlake, Lisa Gerrard, Alan John, Bruce Smeaton, Christopher Gordon, Iain Grandage and David Hirschfelder.
|Inner voices (1979) by Brian Howard and Louis Nowra
|a visceral operatic parable about the corruptions of power to Louis Nowra’s libretto
|Hotspur (1980) by Gillian Whitehead
|like many of this composer’s music-theatre works, Hotspur is a collaboration with esteemed poet Fleur Adcock and evokes the medieval world.
|Voss (1985) by Richard Meale and David Malouf
|with a libretto by David Malouf after Patrick White’s novel, Voss is the first grand opera of the outback.
|an all-encompassing choreographic vision of Australia composed for the bicentenary of white settlement.
|Wild swans (2002) by Elena Kats-Chernin
|evokes, among other things, 19th-century Russian ballet in its fairytale setting.
|The Flight of Les Darcy (2001) by Marcellino, Raffaele
|reconciles art and sport in this opera about the fall of a boxing icon.