Operatic adaptation maintains message
WHILE the Giants traversed the streets of Perth over the weekend, another Australian story was brought to life on the Heath Ledger Theatre stage.
The Rabbits, written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan, was named 1999 Picture Book of the Year by the Children’s Book Council and examines the dark side of Australian colonisation through the tale of an invasion of rabbits.
The co-production by Barking Gecko Theatre Company and Opera Australia in association with WA Opera was commissioned by Perth International Arts Festival and officially opened on Friday, February 13.
The heartbreaking yet beautiful, and at times even humorous, performance was adapted and directed by Barking Gecko’s John Sheedy in his first role directing an opera.
Yet it was apparent Sheedy has been an avid student of the art form for many years, and under the mentorship of Opera Australia artistic director Lyndon Terracini, he achieved a remarkable result during the 60-minute production, which is suitable for ages six years and older.
The voice of the unseen narrator of the picture book was given a presence in the form of a bird-like character, played with operatic precision by soprano Kate MillerHeidke.
Her opening feather- fuelled warbles high above the skilfully designed set were an ideal introduction before the cast of five marsupials and five rabbits acknowledged the clash of cultures and environmental destruction. The production used dialogue from the book and additional content such as a libretto by Lally Katz and composition by Miller-Heidke.
The bone-chilling scene surrounding the taking of the marsupial’s young hit the hardest.
Members of the cast from The Rabbits.