WikiLeaks – the opera

October 15, 2011

Opera Australia workshopped scenes from a potential new opera based on the life and events of  WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange yesterday in the Opera Australia headquarters in Melbourne.

OA Artistic Director, Lyndon Terracini had the idea for the opera about six months ago, fascinated by the potential of the WikiLeaks saga. He contacted young Australian composer, Jonathan Dreyfus and asked him to have a go at writing music for the work.

“What they came up with was really terrific,” OA artistic director Lyndon Terracini told The Weekend Australian yesterday. “What’s great about it is that it speaks to a younger audience than we normally play to.”

The workshop featured the man slated to play Assange: Eddie Perfect, whose previous characters include Shane Warne, Paul Keating, and most recently Mack the Knife in The Threepenny Opera in Melbourne and Sydney.

Terracini said OA had not yet given the green light to the work, but he was encouraged by the early results. “It was really from our perspective to see what they came up with, and they did a terrific job,” he said.

“So now we’ll think about how we can take it to the next stage.”

Terracini knew Assange’s mother 20 years ago when he lived in the northern NSW town of Lismore. But the contact came from the opera’s writers who, Terracini said, contacted Assange and got his approval for the opera. Indeed news of the opera has already been released by WikiLeaks on Twitter.

“This fellow lives outside the square, and what he came up with became a talking point for everyone around the world,” he said.

Whether some of the company’s more conservative patrons will approve of the subject matter — leaked government cables are, after all, a world away from La Boheme or The Merry Widow — is an open question.

“I’m not sure,” Terracini said. “It is a subject that’s contemporary, and everyone will have a view. I think that’s an important thing for us to consider.”

Lyndon Terracini is proving to be not only a capable artistic director, but also quite an impresario. Able to leap tall buildings, fly faster than a speeding bullet and on a never ending search for a new and younger demographic to enlarge opera audiences, he is hell bent on dragging artists, creatives, the Arts and Media Alliance and audiences into a new digital and relevant world of opera. The jury is out on whether he proves to be as great an impresario as  Louis-Désiré Véron.

Composer Jonathan Dreyfus was raised with music, born to George Dreyfus (renowned Australian film composer) and Kay Dreyfus (musicologist and pianist). His concerts with his dad performing film music live to picture gave him an intuitive feeling for the genre, and he has toured these shows around Australia and Europe. Beginning violin studies at the age of 5, Jonathan has become an established performer with rock and pop outfits while maintaining his classical training. His studio arrangements have a distinctive sound arising from this fusion of styles, and he also plays a host of other instruments and sings (or so he likes to call it).

In late 2008 Jonathan first composed film music for his friend’s student project. In what he can only describe as a freakish blur, he has subsequently written for a handful of ads, TV shows and awarded short films––and won an MADC Best Original Music Award––in just over a year.

His father George  has composed numerous film and television scores, including scores for A STREAM TRAIN PASSES  (1974), RUSH (1974), DIMBOOLA (1979) and THE FRINGE DWELLERS  (1986). It was the score for RUSH which brought him wider recognition.

He composed the operas RATHENAU (premiered 1993 at the Staatstheater Kassel), DIE MARX SISTERS  (premiered 1996 at the Bielfeld Opera) and THE TAKEOVER  (1997). Other operas are GARNI SANDS (1966, premiered by the University of New South Wales Opera in 1972) and GILT EDGED KID  (1970) which was commissioned but controversially never performed by Opera Australia. In 2011 he published Brush Off! about his struggles with Opera Australia to get his opera GILT EDGED KID performed.


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