When studying music in the United Kingdom, a big part of our training was in German Lieder (song) and the story of the Lorelei came up every so often—especially settings of the poem by Heinrich Heine. I was initially captivated by the imagery, but as time went on I was also interested in what it was saying about women, lust, sexuality and power. I sought out more music about Lorelei as well as songs of sirens and mermaids which all piqued my interest with the same vigour. After Antoinette Halloran, Dimity Shepherd and I performed our Opera Burlesque in the mid-2000s, I started planning a cabaret based on the legend using songs by Gershwin, Tim Buckley, Silcher and even Styx! The project never came to fruition, but the idea always stuck with me.
One night, in a concert by Victorian Opera on the Seven Deadly Sins, I heard the compositions of Melbourne composer Julian Langdon and suddenly the idea of having him collaborate on a new work written for the three of us seemed like the perfect manifestation of the original idea. I wanted the piece to be relevant and satirical in parts but it was also important to have beautiful lyric music that captured the beauty and power of these misunderstood women.
Casey Bennetto and Gillian Cosgriff were two writers and performers I was very familiar and friendly with and they seemed to be the perfect match to write the libretto—both very funny and fiercly intelligent. I brought in a director I had heard so much about—Sarah Giles who in turn brought along Marg Horwell & Paul Jackson to round out the creative team. In a twist of dark fate, the day we worked through the first draft of the libretto the #metoo movement began on twitter and suddenly the piece had more relevance than ever. The discussions around female empowerment and gender expectations were suddenly everywhere. As we go to print, Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty of serious sexual misconduct— the world keeps on giving this piece relevance which of course is a double-edged sword.
To ensure moments of humour so expertly crafted by Bennetto and Cosgriff were not lost, our incredible Director Sarah Giles has come up with an ingenious way to present the surtitles.
From the score to the libretto, I wanted satire and relevancy but also poetry that encapsulated the romantic nature of the Lorelei myth. Casey, Gillian & Julian managed to deliver that and more.
I first met Patrick Nolan when he directed me in a baroque opera for Opera Australia around 15 years ago. At the time he was a breath of fresh, theatrical air. He questioned every decision I made on stage and challenged me in a way that opera singers are not always challenged. This is exactly how I like to work and I have been trying to find a way to work with him again ever since! I also worked with Sandra Willis during my time there and together they are doing such amazing, progressive things with OQ. They are taking opera to a place that I believe it needs to be to stay relevant without losing its majesty and beauty. I’m very excited to be working with them on this piece bringing our Lorelei to the discerning audience they have helped foster here in Queensland.