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3 April, 2022

Are Heroines Addictive?

The latest from Opera Queensland and opening show of the 2022 season is an exploration of women in Opera, how they have been portrayed and remembered.
Written by Sarah Holland-Batt with direction by Laura Hannsford and Patrick Nolan I feel grossly under qualified to speak to the technical prowess of Opera so from that I will refrain.

That said, to me it seemed flawless.

The Sopranos themselves, with their powerful voices filling the auditorium in perfect tone and holding notes for what seemed like inhuman duration were impressive to say the least (unfortunately I cannot credit all the singers as there were a lot of understudies in the matinee performance and I could not keep up with my note keeping).

Supported by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under the conductorship of Jessica Gethin and supported by the Opera Queensland Chorus it was a delight to behold.

The orchestra was sat at the back of the stage which to the front had naked mannequins that would soon be dressed with the fragments of tragedy and torment of the heroines of the first act.

We were taken on a journey of individual operatic numbers from Tosca to Sappho, Carmen to Nabucco.

If this all sounds too highbrow for you then fear not.

English subtitles are projected on the front of the balcony above the stage to allow one not fluent in multiple languages to follow along and each scene was introduced by a narrator giving you a ‘cliffs notes’ style background for context.

Adjacent to the subtitles were on occasion live projections of the scene on stage, ordinarily I believe this sort of mixing of video and live performance can be distracting but not here; this just complimented live action perfectly even enhancing the emotion portrayed.  

Act one was strong, one really felt the pain of the leads as they suffered on stage as they have time and time again for hundreds of years, it was moving and powerful to say the least.

Costuming (Karen Cochet and Bianca Bulley) throughout was perfect and excellent in its simplicity adding a wonderful mix of modernity and the classic.

During the interval I remember thinking to myself that I would appreciate an act two that was not as tragic and tortured.

Which brought to mind my privilege as a man and thought that all of these characters from act one would I am sure appreciated the same.

Act two started as strong as act one with that feeling of hope that I desired – did I desire that or did I need some relief from traumatic lives of those that had come before?
I am not sure what I expected from the rest of the second act, maybe it’s that opera does not have many examples of women that are not in distress or maybe as a society we take more pleasure in watching the suffering of others.

Either way act two did not have the same impact as act one.

Act three was short ending with a Humming Chorus from Madama Butterfly which felt like a time to reflect.

One hopes that the audience did take time to reflect, not only on the representation of women in Opera but how as a society we treat women in general because I truly do believe that heroines are addictive.