Open Letter From Playwright Thomas De Angelis On Site-Specific Opera Track Works

Our eclectic team of writers from around Australia – and a couple beyond – with decades of combined experience and interest in all fields.

Theatre company BBT will present the site-specific, pastiche opera 'Track Works', taking centre-stage at Sydney iconic Mortuary Station this November-December.

'Track Works' transports audiences into the lives of five commuters, grappling with everyday challenges during their delayed journeys home. It weaves together history's beloved operas, combining them to form a new, original narrative set in contemporary Sydney.

The historic Mortuary Station, where the production will take place, is nestled in the heart of Chippendale. The cast includes Lily Harper ('Cendrillon', 'Madama Butterfly'), Eden Shifroni ('La Bohème'), Sophie Mohler ('L’incorinazione di Poppea'), Anastasia Gall ('Die Zuberflöte') and Michael Kaufmann ('The Coronation of Poppea').

Before the show begins, BBT Artistic Director and Playwright Thomas De Angelis has penned an open letter about it.

“‘Track Works' is the second site-specific pastiche opera that Clemence Williams and I have co-created. Our previous work, 'Chamber Pot Opera' was originally staged in the Ladies Powder Room of the Queen Victoria Building. That little show toured the world, occupying loos in Adelaide, Edinburgh, St Petersburg and the Sydney Opera House.

'Track Works' is bigger, bolder and even better than our last jukebox opera. The stage is the breathtaking Mortuary Station, a heritage listed building known for its imposing sandstone arches. You’ve probably driven or caught a train past its gothic edifice, but never gotten close enough to see the carved reliefs of winged cherubs and 1850s-era architecture. It’s the perfect canvas for 'Track Works', a show that breathes new life into classic arias while at the same time reopening a long-dormant Sydney icon.

'Track Works' focuses on the lives of five individuals, each of whom embark upon their own unique journeys – just as every commuter in Sydney has their own story and their own destination – and explores the rarity of meaningful connections that used to be commonplace at train stations. These days in public spaces, we often choose to isolate ourselves, whether it's through AirPods, smartphones, or behind face masks.

Track Works Opera 2
The challenge involved in crafting a story out of existing arias made creating this show an exercise in riddle solving. We prioritised the arc of the characters, attempting to bend but not break the original contexts of the arias we chose. It was a difficult yet satisfying process, which resulted in a work that foregrounds the chance encounters of strangers, and the untold lives of the people we often pass right by.

We were also committed to building on the work we started with 'Chamber Pot Opera', offering an entry point for those who might be new to opera, and attempting to break down the intimidating aura often associated with traditional opera houses. The characters are contemporary and recognisable, and in their everyday journeys we hope you see a little part of yourself. Of course, for those opera aficionados out there, you’ll revel in the beauty of reinvented bel canto and the masterful vocal work of an extraordinary young cast. The site-specific nature of the show means the audience is always close to the action, while real-life trains pull in and out of Central, adding their own symphonic harmonies to the experience.

So, join us at Mortuary Station, where the echoes of centuries past blend seamlessly with the powerful voices of today. Don't miss this chance to be a part of something truly exceptional, a production that redefines the boundaries of opera and reminds us of the stories we often overlook.”

‘Track Works’ takes place at Mortuary Station (Sydney) 21 November-19 December.

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