AAR Karina Utomo - photo by Paul TaddayA powerful and moving response to children in detention, Tura New Music presents award-winning composer Cat Hope’s new opera, Speechless, in a Perth Festival Co-Commission at the Sunset Heritage Precinct from 26 February 2019.

Speechless follows the structure of conventional opera but uses a unique score derived from drawings and graphics extracted from the 2014 Human Rights Commission report – The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. Through a vocal language beyond words, Speechless is Hope’s musical exploration of the impact on those rendered speechless through political means.

This wordless opera in five acts stars soloist and Heavy Metal specialist, Karina Utomo (High Tension); Sage Pbbbt – an experimental Perth vocalist who incorporates Tuvan; Mongolian overtone singing, Iranian-born singer Tara Tiba; opera singer Judith Dodsworth; and a 31-piece multi-instrumental Australian Bass Orchestra and Decibel new music ensemble plus a combined community choir of 30 voices.

The Australian Bass Orchestra, formed by Hope in 2014, consists of only low-pitched instruments such as cellos, double basses, bass guitars, bass winds and brass, bass drums, electronics and more – supported by powerful low range amplification that sends the low frequency tones through listeners’ bodies.

“This is a project that had a philosophical rather than a musical birth… I wanted to use my own artistic practice to express how I felt about human rights issues in Australia, and I realised that the grand form of opera was the best way to do that,” said Composer Cat Hope.

“The concept for the work is based on people rendered voiceless under our watch, such as refugees. The score for the opera is derived from the Forgotten Children report document itself; using the children’s drawings, graphs and photographs it features as the basis for a music notation.”

“I am aiming to use music to grapple with complex, difficult problems that concern us all. We all love music – it has an incredible abstract power that we often respond to emotionally. The low frequency sound of the Bass Orchestra also elicits an actual warm and powerful physical response – I want to see if I can leverage this to help us consider dilemmas in a new way, and reinforce qualities of empathy, participation and empowerment.”

Presented over six nights at the exciting new Festival venue of the Sunset Heritage Precinct, Speechless is a compelling, courageous and visceral sonic world paying homage to people whose voices are rendered silent through political means.

Produced by Tura New Music – a national driving force in new music and sound art for over 30 years, Speechless was commissioned by Perth Festival and is one of six Made in WA Perth Festival commissions to have their world premiere at the 2019 Festival.

Cat Hope is one of Australia’s foremost composers, musicians and experimental sound artists. She is a classically trained flautist, self-taught vocalist, experimental bassist and is the director of Decibel new music ensemble.

Hope won the Award for Excellence in Experimental Music at the APRA AMC Art Awards in 2011 and 2014. She has been in pop bands, noise groups and new music and orchestral groups. She is Head of School at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University.

Sunset Heritage Precinct, 80 Birdwood Parade, Dalkeith
Season: 26 February – 3 March 2019
Information and Bookings: www.perthfestival.com.au

Image: Karina Utomo – photo by Paul Tadday