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"a radical reinterpretation...the production lean...
the effect haunting and compelling." 
- B. Zwartz, Herald Sun

Curlew River

music by Benjamin Britten
libretto by William Plomer

A new production by Linda Thompson

fortyfive downstairs May 2015 




New Production

music by Benjamin Britten
libretto by William Plomer

stage director - Linda Thompson
conductor - Evan Lawson
set & costume design - Peter Corrigan AM
lighting design - Greg Carroll
projection engineer - Olaf Meyer
video footage - Greta Nash, Greg Carrolll

Agathe de Courcy as MadWoman
Belinda Prakhoff as 'Leader' (Abbot)
Adrian McEniery as Ferry Man
Owain Browne as Traveller
Tamzyn Alexander as Child
Alissa Andraski
Kimberley Coleman
Piera Dennerstein
Alexandra Lidgerwood
Michelle McCarthy
Lisa Parker
Samuel Thomas-Holland
Khary Wilson

“I will not take you on my Ferry Boat, unless you entertain us, with your singing!
Show us what you can do...Mad Woman, Sing!” Ferry Man to Mad Woman 

Production premiered at fortyfive downstairs, May 2015


Culture Project #2

Using theatrical treatments of new or existing works, we engage opera to stimulate awareness, reflection and provoke debate on current social justice or humanitarian issues.  Aside from its cultural importance as a work of English & Japanese sensibilities, CURLEW RIVER is a revelation, as it dispenses with universal tempo; the chief compositional technique in Curlew River is heterophony - a type of texture characterized by the simultaneous variation of a single melodic line - and in the telling of this story is used to extraordinary dramatic effect.

With textures derived from short, decorative couplings and long, unsynchronised layers of melody, the anguish and grief that manifests as madness is captured intellectually, and aesthetically. A recognised masterpiece that is rarely performed, originally intended for an all-male cast, Curlew River is a calculated choice to capture both the young performers and our audience in challenging and
surprising but accessible music to engage in

opera as activism: in a production that has a haunting and profound effect.

Benjamin Britten's CURLEW RIVER was based on a Japanese Noh play, using western & Japanese instruments. Our 'reinterpretation' makes dramatic comment on the taking of children from their mothers; looking at how society views people who are perceived behaving strangely and grief can be mistaken for madness - which the audience may relate to Stolen Generation, kidnapping of school girls, and forced separation of parents from children during war. Our 'cult' leaders take boatloads of tourists to a bizarre burial site, requiring them to undergo ritual undressing and facepainting. The opera shines a spotlight on their (society's) treatment of a 'homeless' [foreign] woman who is searching for her missing child.

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