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News Article

Would a new ‘hybrid’ opera format resonate with Aussies?

Published:16 March 2020

CQUniversity PhD candidate Rod Ainsworth pictured on the set of an Opera Queensland project in Tumbulgum, NSW a few years ago. PHOTO CREDIT: Chelle Wallace.

Telling story through song is as old as humanity and is often used, especially in First Nations cultures, to connect people to the land. European forms, especially opera, tend to focus more on social worlds.

So is it possible to reimagine a hybrid opera style more attuned with ‘ecological theatre’ that could resonate with regional Queenslanders and their own ‘spirit of place’? Is opera at all relevant to this place in 2020?

CQUniversity PhD candidate Rod Ainsworth hopes to find out by producing his own libretti (stories/words) for two new operas, while mapping his practice through journaling and case studies.

“I wrote my first opera libretto 10 years ago coming from a point of complete distance (I was a playwright with minimal interest in opera) but curiosity in the artform has grown and I have since become completely obsessed by the idea of creating new opera in Australia,” Mr Ainsworth says.

“This is probably quite mad, as production opportunities, particularly when you live in regional Australia, are few and far between.

“My aim is to explore this idea of a personal response to environment and place through the creative process of writing opera libretti.

“I think the opera artform's come a long way but people are still stuck in the Wagnerian stereotype and Bugs Bunny cartoons.”

Mr Ainsworth says there are many ‘hybrids and new creatures’ worthy of consideration as opera formats for contemporary Australians.

He notes that the status of the librettist in the opera-making chain has been largely ignored, or at least under-represented in critical and scholarly writing.

“I will be analysing my work through an ecocritical lens, examining how the texts can position the environments as more than mere settings in the stories – how deep notions of place are communicated and how traditionally European forms are adapted to a contemporary regional Australian context.”