Echo, a talkative nymph of the forest, is in love with Narcissus, who only loves himself. After she is rejected, Echo retreats to the caves, doomed to forever repeat only the words she hears.
Narcissus is unable to tear himself away from his own reflection and turns into a flower on the riverbank. The gift of prophecy becomes a curse when no one believes you.
Cassandra foresees that the Trojan horse will lead to the downfall of her people, but her warnings go unheeded. The gods show mortals who’s boss.
Two local composer/librettist teams reflect prescient truths in these ancient myths. Composer Kevin March and librettist Jane Montgomery Griffiths explore Echo and Narcissus, while composer Simon Bruckard and librettist Constantine Costi retell Cassandra.
Bruckard, who also conducts the double bill, received a Green Room Award for Musical Achievement (New Australian Opera) for his first opera: The Selfish Giant – commissioned by Victorian Opera and staged in October 2019.
Award-winning director Sam Strong realises the double bill alongside an acclaimed creative team, including set and costume designer Anna Cordingley, lighting designer Paul Jackson and sound designer Jim Atkins.
Victorian artists form the cast with soprano Kathryn Radcliffe and baritone Nathan Lay performing the title roles of Echo and Narcissus alongside a female chorus. Mezzo-soprano Shakira Dugan performs the title role as Cassandra, joined by tenor Samuel Sakker as Apollo and baritone Simon Meadows as Priam.
Richard Mills, Artistic Director of Victorian Opera, commissioned this double bill to crucially accommodate social distancing precautions with a minimal cast and orchestra sizes and the intent to stream the production.
“Commissions reflect Victorian Opera’s continuing belief in the power of the operatic medium to reflect on and illuminate contemporary experience,” he said. “A commission is a promise to the future, it is a demonstration of faith in the creative act and particular faith in the creatives invited to make the new work.”
“In the dark days of lockdown, the process of making something new engendered purpose and hope in all concerned and a sense of anticipation of things to come. We now see the blossoming of the initial seeding ideas into two new and finely made works in the operatic tradition – the result of dedication, hard work and commitment to what can be achieved with skill and imagination.
“Victorian Opera is proud to have enabled these talented artists to realise their dream to tell two very old stories in a vital new perspective,” said Mills
Echo and Narcissus | Cassandra
Playhouse – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 17 – 20 March 2021
Information and Bookings: www.victorianopera.com.au
Image: Echo and Narcissus | Cassandra – artwork by Hipworth
Note: The performance of Echo and Narcissus | Cassandra on Friday 19 March at 7.30 pm will be livestreamed as part of the Virtual Victorian Opera program.