Open Letter From Megan Washington About New Work And Opera Queensland's NOW Workshop

Published in Arts  
L-R: Scott Harrington, Megan Washington, Patrick Nolan L-R: Scott Harrington, Megan Washington, Patrick Nolan Image © Paul Harris

Ester is a family therapist who spends her days helping others find happiness, but her own family relationships – with her mother, her estranged sister, her ex-husband and her twin daughters – are tense and frayed.

Unfurling over one rainy day in Sydney, Georgia Blain’s 'Between A Wolf And A Dog' is ultimately a joyous tribute to the beauty of being alive.

The story struck a resonant chord with ARIA Award-winning musician Megan Washington who is premiering snippets of a new work for Opera Queensland during the inaugural NOW 2019, based on the 2017 novel.

Here, Megan pens an open letter about the freedom she feels writing her first opera and why she isn’t nervous ahead of previewing some of its songs to leaders of Australia’s performing arts industry.

“From the minute I finished reading 'Between A Wolf And A Dog' by Georgia Blain, I knew I wanted to do something more with it. It really got under my skin and stayed with me long after I read the last page. I was struck by how similar in style it was to some of Anton Chekhov’s work, in that it’s a family chamber drama set over one rainy weekend. I could see how this story belonged on the stage.

I’ve known Opera Queensland’s CEO and Artistic Director Patrick Nolan for about 10 years. We were introduced by (pianist and composer) Paul Grabowsky, and he’s become a friend over that time. He asked me if I was interested in writing a new opera for the company and it seemed like a no-brainer that it should be based on 'Between A Wolf And A Dog'.

Opera is so marvellous in exploring the highs and lows of the human experience and I feel like this story needs that depth of expression, so that’s why I think that opera is the perfect vehicle for the narrative.

I’ve never written an opera before, so while it’s a real learning curve for me. It’s an exciting time too because there are no rules. I’ve got a pretty obsessive, nerd-like knowledge of musicals which are really 'rulesy'; they’re clearly formatted and there’s a very neat template you can follow.

With opera there are no rules, you can make it up as you go. You don’t need a big scene-setting number at the start, you don’t need to follow a formula and I find this so exciting.

Additionally, this is the first time I am writing songs I don’t have to sing which, I’ve got to say, is like putting on wings. I have the freedom to write according to what the project wants, not what I want. During the writing process I realised: 'I don’t have to sing this, so I can write that note and someone else can figure out how to get there'.

I feel far less nervous than usual about premiering some of these songs at NOW 2019 this week and a big part of that is because I don’t have to sing them!”

NOW 2019 – the inaugural New Opera Workshop – is a collaboration between Opera Queensland and Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University and will be held from 5-7 April 2019. It brings together leading Australian and international opera composers, librettists and producers to challenge, investigate and celebrate opera’s extraordinary art form. Go to the Opera Queensland site for more information.


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