A middle-aged woman and her young boyfriend, both naked. Let me think…
You won’t guess. It’s a new Australian work, Climbing towards Midnight, inspired by the second act of Parsifal and using texts by Richard Wagner and Georg Trakl. Coming your way soon. See below.
A Very Different Kind of Opera Season
One world premiere and two Australian premieres
Sydney Chamber Opera announces its most ambitious season yet presenting a new Australian work marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Richard Wagner,Climbing Toward Midnight, and two Australian premieres, Benjamin Brittens’s Owen Wingrave and Giya Kancheli’s Exil. It is a truly contemporary season, and all three productions have women directors – setting Sydney Chamber Opera apart from all other Australian opera companies.
As the opera world prepares to honour the legacy of Richard Wagner with numerous productions of his operas, Sydney Chamber Opera and composer Jack Symonds have undertaken a more original and searching tribute with Climbing Toward Midnight. Using Wagner’s text and the poetry of Georg Trakl, Jack Symonds has created a modern parable of obsession and desperation inspired by Act II of Wagner’s controversial last opera Parsifal, in which the boyish Parsifal has an strange, abortive romance with an older woman.
‘I wanted to re-imagine Wagner’s heady concoction of religion, sex and spiritual death for a post-Christian world. What does it mean for two people to contort each other into a modern relationship?’.
- Jack Symonds, composer
Conducted by Jack Symonds and directed by Israeli-Australian Netta Yashchin (Belvoir, State Theatre of South Australia) this work is a 21st century reflection on Wagner’s complex legacy.
2013 is also the 100th anniversary of Benjamin Britten’s birth, and SCO presents a staged production of his second-last opera Owen Wingrave for the first time in Australia – a significant milestone. Originally commissioned by the BBC as an opera for television it is based on the novel by Henry James. Exploring the notions of pacifism, close to the heart of Britten himself, the opera charts the struggle of Owen Wingrave as he rebels against his family’s legacy and ultimately confronts the ghosts of his past with shattering consequences.
Jack Symonds conducts and director Imara Savage (STC, Bell Shakespeare) stages this production after her success with SCO’s In the Penal Colony by Philip Glass in 2012.
‘Benjamin Britten’s Owen Wingrave provides an irresistible challenge. How to stage the seemingly un-stageable, an opera that was conceived and written for television, and then how to unearth what is truly important – the horror of war and a young man’s decision to choose peace no matter what the cost.’
- Imara Savage, director
The final production is no less daring with the Australian premiere of Giya Kancheli’s Exil (Exile), a one-woman show. Giya Kancheli is Georgia’s most distinguished living composer and a leading figure in the world of contemporary music. His music is deeply spiritual, filled with haunting aural images, varied colours and textures, sharp contrasts and shattering climaxes. A song cycle based on Psalm 23 and the post holocaust poetry of Paul Celen and Hans Sahl, Exil is an exploration of the soul in the face of unspeakable horror.
‘Music, like life itself, is inconceivable without romanticism. Romanticism is a high dream of the past, present, and future–a force of invincible beauty which towers above, and conquers, the forces of ignorance, bigotry, violence, and evil.’
- Giya Kancheli, composer
Exil is conducted by Jack Symonds, directed by Melbourne’s Adena Jacobs (Malthouse, Belvoir, Fraught Outfit) and performed by internationally acclaimed soprano Jane Sheldon.
‘In ‘Kancheli’s ‘Exil,’ a lone voice rises from the silence and wrestles with unnameable suffering. This piece, written in the aftermath of the Holocaust, is deeply quiet and stark and entirely human. It somehow reaches to the core of the relationship between the powerless and the almighty.’
- Adena Jacobs, director