Rehearsals are well underway for Victorian Opera’s latest commission, Parrwang Lifts the Sky, ahead of a limited season in the Playhouse – Arts Centre Melbourne on Saturday 12 June 2021 – presented in association with Short Black Opera, the opera will also be streamed worldwide.
Celebrated Yorta Yorta composer and soprano Deborah Cheetham AO, recent recipient of the Helpmann Awards’ JC Williamson Award, has written, composed and stars in this new Australian opera for children and families.
Parrwang Lifts the Sky tells the creation story of the sunrise based on a traditional story from Wadawurrung Country. A long time ago, the sky was a blanket on the land. The earth was in darkness and the people were afraid. It was a very sad state of affairs and would have stayed that way except for the courage of Parrwang the magpie.
Tjatjarrang (Big Sister) and Koki (Brother) are young, adventurous and tired of living in the dark. When they manage to climb to the highest branches of an ancient gum tree, they discover an exciting new world and a steadfast friend in Parrwang, who decides to help the young humans lift the blanket of darkness from the ground. A plan is devised, but can Parrwang convince the Great Council of Birds to agree?
“Parrwang Lifts the Sky is a simple, yet profound story which goes to the heart of our need to understand and respect the natural world in which we live,” said Deborah Cheetham.
“It is a privilege to share the gift of this beautiful Wadawurrung story through the powerful medium of opera and to once again have the opportunity to connect audiences with the longest continuing culture in the world.”
Victorian Opera’s Artistic Director Richard Mills conducts Parrwang Lifts the Sky alongside director, and Victorian Opera’s CEO, Elizabeth Hill-Cooper. Hill-Cooper replaces original director Cameron Menzies, who was unable to return to Australia from his new base as the Artistic Director of Northern Ireland Opera.
“Victorian Opera is honoured and delighted to be able to present the world premiere of Deborah Cheetham’s important new opera Parrwang Lifts the Sky,” said Richard Mills.
“This is a show for the whole family, which opens new perspectives on the richness of our First Nation’s heritage with a wonderful story which celebrates our landscape and our area, in the context of ancient storytelling, which is proving to be timeless and of sharp and entertaining contemporary relevance.”
Set and Costume Designer Mel Serjeant has worked alongside two Wadawurrung artists to incorporate their art work in the production. Costumes feature a series of art works created by Deanne Gilson, while the set includes elements of a painting created by Billy-Jay O’Toole. The production is lit by designer Peter Darby.
Georgina Hall leads the cast as Parrwang with Jess Hitchcock and Michael Petruccelli as Tjatjarrang and Koki respectively. Deborah Cheetham stars as Gorngany, Parrwang’s cousin visiting from Yorta Yorta Country. Kiran Rajasingam and Shauntai Batzke perform the roles of crows, Mr and Mrs Waa. Don Christopher stars as Bunjil, the creator.
As an extension of its in-theatre season, Parrwang Lifts the Sky will also be live-streamed worldwide on Saturday 12 June at 2.00pm. This performance will be available to watch later on-demand for the following six-months.
Parrwang Lifts the Sky
Playhouse – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performances: Saturday 12 June 2021 – at 11.00am, 2.00pm & 5.00pm
Information and Bookings: www.victorianopera.com.au
Image: Deborah Cheetham AO in rehearsal for Victorian Opera’s production of Parrwang Lifts the Sky – photo by Hilary Walker