In a world immortalised by Barbara Baynton and Henry Lawson, on the remote cattle station of Dry River Run, unfurls the epic drama of the Callaway family. As the nation struggles to come to terms with its new identity, so too do the Callaways, as they struggle to face their darkest secrets.
The action takes place against the background of Federation, with Australia on the brink of independence. The scene is set in a remote town in western Queensland in 1900. Archie Callaway, a popular local identity, farmer and keen advocate of Federation, has died. The opera opens with his funeral and the arrival of his surviving brother to lay claim to a half share in the property.
The story centres around the dead man’s widow and her spirited daughter Veronica. Caught in a plot of domestic violence played out in the context of Victorian morality, they pin their hopes on women gaining the vote in the new nation. This, they believe, will deliver equal rights and justice in future. The three men implicated in the family tragedy must wrestle with their consciences to find a way forward, which for each of them involves a different choice.
“The compositional period of Dry River Run covered many momentous turns in my life,” said Composer Paul Dean. “My move back to my home town of Brisbane after finishing a 6-year stint at the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne, starting my new appointment at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University (QCGU) as Head of Winds, finding the love of my life and saying farewell to both my parents. And most of that joy, change and pain is written into the 140 minutes of music you will hear inside the opera.”
“The process was beyond the scope of anything I had done before, but in saying that, was also the project I have given more space to than anything before, and certainly more consideration and more imagination. The challenges throughout this remarkable story by Rodney Hall were many, but they also allowed me to develop a voice and technique that I didn’t have before.”
Musically, I really had to dig deep to find the sounds for stage action as varied as a church congregation singing a well-known hymn accompanied by pestilential flies and the song of butcher birds, two young boys discovering each other’s secrets while on horseback, a pub celebration and fight, the scheming of an extremely disturbed man and his ultimate actions and the sorrow of a family left fatherless, homeless and seemingly void of hope.”
Brisbane born and bred clarinetist Paul Dean is widely regarded as one of Australia’s foremost musicians in his multiple capacities as soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, composer and Artistic Director. He currently holds the position of Head of Winds at Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University. He is a founding member of the Endeavour Trio and co-Artistic Director of Ensemble Q with Trish O’Brien.
Rodney Hall is a distinguished writer and director, whose credits include Quilting the Armour, A Dialogue of Love & Power, A Soldier’s Tale, Whispers, A Return to the Brink and Remembrance. He is an author with an international reputation. His latest novel, A Stolen Season, was published by Picador earlier this year. Hall has twice won the Miles Franklin Award and has twice been awarded the gold medal of the Australian Literature Society. In 1990 he was made a member of the Order of Australia and awarded the Commonwealth Medal in 2003.
Composer: Paul Dean Librettist and Director: Rodney Hall Conductor: Associate Professor Nicholas Cleobury Costume and Set Designer: Peter Mumford Lighting Designer: Nigel Levings
Dry River Run
Conservatorium Theatre – Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, South Bank (Brisbane)
Season: 1 – 9 September 2018
For more information, visit: www.queenslandconservatorium.com.au for details.
Image: The Cast of Dry River Run – courtesy of Queensland Conservatorium