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A Greek legend’s cross-over charm—Midsumma Festival to premiere new Australian ballet opera, Orpheus

BY Diana Wolfe | 09-Jan-2019
The world premiere of a landmark new Australian ballet opera, Orpheus, will be held during this year’s Midsumma Festival. Written by Evan Lawson of Forest Collective, this will be the first time that Victoria’s much-loved queer cultural festival has featured an opera in its program.
Venue: Sacred Heart Oratory, Abbotsford Convent
Address: 1 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford, Victoria 3167
Date: Thursday Jan 31—Sunday Feb 3
Time: Preview Thu 7:30pm, Fri 7:30pm, Sat 1pm, Sun matinee 3:30pm & 7:30pm
Ticket: Full: $40, Group $28 (min 10), Conc: $30, Seniors: $35, Preview: $27
Buy / Ticket: http://midsumma.org.au/program/orphe19
Web: http://www. forestcollective.com.au
: https://www.facebook.com/ForestCollective/
: https://www.facebook.com/events/183452419240775/
Ashley Dougan, dancer (credit: Meghan Scerri)
The myth of Orpheus has inspired countless artists and artistic works over millennia. Lawson’s fresh re-telling, devised from texts from ancient operas based on Orpheus, follows the story of the legendary musician, poet and all-round charmer as he travels to Hell and back, to rescue his beloved wife, Eurydice.

But in a first, Lawson’s work pays equal attention to Orpheus’ love of both men and women. So while exploring his tragic love for his wife, Lawson also focuses on elements of the myth involving Orpheus’ male lover and fellow Argonaut, Calaïs.

Talented composer, curator and conductor Lawson is the artistic director of Forest Collective. Regarded as one of Australia's leading emerging queer musicians, his work is being fêted in Europe and the US. Classically trained both here and internationally, Evan’s music has been described as “bar to bar, beautiful” in RealTime Magazine. His new work will be danced and choreographed by dynamic emerging artist Ashley Dougan (pictured). Dougan is rapidly making a name for himself performing in shows and festivals around the country, having trained in classical and contemporary dance in Australia and Paris.

The opera will be performed by a 12-member musical ensemble, including core-mezzo soprano Kate Bright as Eurydice, tenor Raymond Khong (Orpheus) and baritone Joseph Ewart (Calaïs), together with talented performers on harp, flute, saxophone, clarinet, recorder, sackbut (Renaissance and Baroque-era trombone), percussion, violin, cello and double bass.

As an arts organisation dedicated to innovative, collaborative, experimental and traditional art forms, Forest Collective is one of Melbourne’s leading young arts companies. Founded in 2009, the artists collective is run by a team of like-minded volunteers, all creative individuals in their own right. The not-for-profit champions the art and music of the ‘other’ and allows Victorian artists, musicians and composers the chance to challenge artistic norms, a tradition that Orpheus continues. Orpheus, presented at Abbotsford Convent, promises to appeal to members of the LGBTQI community, audience members interested in classics and mythology, opera fans and fans of contemporary Australian music and dance.

Orpheus is a co-commission between Forest Collective & Prismatx Ensemble. Co-presenter, rehearsal and performance venue: Abbotsford Convent Foundation. Orpheus is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria, and City of Yarra.

The production features: Evan Lawson (composer and musical director), Ashley Dougan (dancer and choreographer), Jane Noonan (costume designer), Candice MacAllister (set designer), Kate Bright (mezzo soprano), Raymond Khong (tenor), Joseph Ewart (tenor), and the Forest Collective musical ensemble.