Short Black Opera presents a Gala performance of Pecan Summer, Australia’s first Indigenous opera, written by Yorta Yorta soprano, Deborah Cheetham at the Sydney Opera House on Monday 12 September 2016.
The opera is based on the events surrounding the walk-off from Cummeragunja mission in 1939, when 200 Aboriginal men, women and children crossed the Murray river from NSW and walked 75km to Shepparton in Victoria, in protest of the harsh conditions on the mission.
This was the first mass strike by Aboriginal people and triggered a new phase of Aboriginal political activism across Australia. The opera begins in Yorta Yorta language, which was forbidden at the time of the walk-off and explores the inter-generational effects of the legacy of the Stolen Generations.
Deborah Cheetham began writing Pecan Summer in 2008, and the opera premiered on country in Mooroopna (VIC) in 2010. The success of Pecan Summer led to the formation of Short Black Opera Company, a national not-for-profit opera company devoted to the development of Indigenous opera singers. Since the premiere, Short Black Opera has presented Pecan Summer in Melbourne (2011), Perth (2012) and Adelaide (2014), a total of 11 performances to an audience of over 5,000 people.
Directed by Cameron Menzies, under the baton of Conductor, Dr David Kram, this brand new production will bring together over 65 performers and musicians, featuring emerging Indigenous opera stars including Wiradjuri soprano Shauntai Batzke, Jessica Hitchcock (The Rabbits), baritone John Wayne Parsons, and making his Short Black operatic debut, Marcus Corowa (The Rabbits).
Pecan Summer also features some of Australia’s best loved established singers including Barry Ryan OAM, Rosamund Illing, Jonathon Welch AM, the Sydney production will also feature special guests Simon Lobelson, Eddie Muliaumaseali’I, Michael Butchard and soprano Laura King. Cheetham will perform the role of Ella.
This bespoke production for the Sydney Opera House will harness the technology of 3D mapping with design by Nicholas Tory of Ample Projects (VIVID Festival) and visual design content by leading Indigenous photographic artist Wayne Quilliam, to create a production which will be ready for international touring.
“That Pecan Summer is a highly important work for this country, both creatively and culturally, seems undeniable… Deborah Cheetham is to be commended as writer, composer, singer and director; but she is also to be championed for addressing, head-on via this opera’s simple but powerful storytelling, a deep wound in the Australian psyche surrounding the Stolen Generations.” – Graham Strahle, Music Australia
Concert Hall – Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney
Performance: Monday 12 September 2016
For more information, visit: www.deborahcheetham.com for details.
Image: Deborah Cheetham will feature in Pecan Summer – photo by Jorge de Araujo