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Barossa : ein singspiel

by Ralph Middenway and Andrew Taylor (1988)



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Barossa : ein singspiel / music: Ralph Middenway ; libretto: Andrew Taylor.

Library shelf no. 782.13/MID 1 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

This Singspiel (i.e. opera with spoken dialogue) is a Romeo and Juliet story with a happy ending. The Juliet is a young Barossa German pupil teacher; the Romeo is a young discharged Anglo Army Captain. The Barossa Valley is riven by ethnic tension which occasionally spills over into violence. The young couple are determined to live happily ever after, and attempt to escape the Valley, the stiff Pastor, her bigoted mother and his rather staid father. They are intercepted as they attempt to catch the Adelaide train. Then the news arrives that the Armistice has just been signed, the War is over, and a new day will dawn.

One of the speaking characters is a pianist in love with the newfangled ragtime; another, a mime, is the church organist and housemaid to the Anglo family. There is also an onstage scratch German band of fiddle, clarionet, flugelhorn, baritone horn (or tenor tuba) with optional piano accordeon (of the period). MUSIC, one might say, is one of the characters: Lutheran church music extracts symbolise the Old Way; the ragtime extracts symbolise the New Way which will shortly transform the Valley.

The emotional range is very wide.

Work Details

Year: 1988

Instrumentation: Principals: 2 sopranos and 2 baritones ; supporting roles: soprano, mezzo-soprano, 2 tenors, speaker, organ, piano ; SSAATTBarB chorus, 2 flutes, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 trumpets, flugelhorn, horn, 2 trombones, tuba, percussion (2 players, including timpani), harp, strings.

Duration: 120 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — 4 Principal & Pianist roles c,f, Janacek, other roles c.f. Smetana

Dedication note: "Dedicated to our parents-in-law"

Commission note: Commissioned by South Australian College of Advanced Education.. Commissioned with funding support from Australia Council & Australian Bicentennial Authority

First performance: by Tessa Miller, Mary Branagan, Geoffrey Asshenden, Alan McKie, Tessa Bremner, Brian Chatterton — Oct 88. Scott Theatre, Adelaide

The composer notes:
The structure of the work is more or less that of a standard Singspiel. It may be thought of as post-modern, in the sense that its stylistic range is wide; the overall harmonic idiom covers straight tonality at one extreme, through minimalism and to interval rows and expanded tonality at the other. It was written essentially for good music students to show what they could do, in association with the seasoned professionals in the principal roles. One dominant characteristic of the production period was the extent to which all the performers became actively involved, as for example joining in with long set-building sessions after evening rehearsals. It was a very happy time; audience responses were enthusiastic; There are presently active moves to revive the piece in 2018, to mark the Centenary of the end of WW1.

The premiere season of 4 performances took place in October 1988, in Scott Theatre, Kintore Avenue, Adelaide. 4 principals: Tessa Miller, Mary Branagan, Geoffrey Asshenden, Alan McKie. Director, Tessa Bremner; set design Ralph Middenway; Musical Director Brian Chatterton.

Performances of this work

Oct 88: Scott Theatre, Adelaide. Featuring Tessa Miller, Mary Branagan, Geoffrey Asshenden, Alan McKie, Tessa Bremner, Brian Chatterton.

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