‘Parrwang Lifts the Sky’: A family opera

Parrwang lifts the sky, a family friendly opera created by acclaimed Yorta Yorta/Yuin soprano, composer, and artistic director Deborah Cheetham Fraillon AO, will have its world premiere to a live audience from 7 – 8 July at Arts Center Melbourne’s Playhouse as part of NAIDOC week. This joyful opera is based on an original story from Wadaworrung Country told to the children of the Wadaworrung by community Elder, the late Uncle David Tournier.

This NAIDOC week season will be the first opportunity for a live audience to see the production after the 2021 Victorian Opera performances were canceled due to a COVID lockdown. The opera features some of Australia’s finest operatic talent including First Nations artists Shauntai Sherree, Jessica Hitchcock with Cheetham Fraillon herself and members of the Dhungala Children’s Choir.

Did you know that the Magpies created the first dawn?*

A long time ago…. The sky was a blanket on the land. The earth was in darkness, and the people were afraid. It was a very sad state of affairs and would have stayed that way except for the courage of young Parrwang the Magpie.

Tjatja (Jessica Hitchcock) and Koki (Michael Petruccelli) are young, adventurous and tired of living in the dark. When they manage to climb to the highest branches of an ancient gum tree, they discover an exciting new world and a steadfast friend in Parrwang – who decides to help the young humans lift the blanket of darkness from the ground.

A plan is devised – but can Parrwang (Rebecca Rashleigh) convince Mr Waa (Eamon Dooley), Bunjil (Adrian Tamburini) and the Great Council of Birds (Dhungala Children’s Choir) to agree?

Composer and librettist Deborah Cheetham Fraillon AO said Parrwang lifts the sky was about the relationship between humans and nature.

The Parrwang story provides us with a joyful metaphor for life and the quest for knowledge and understanding. It is a celebration of friendship and the courage it takes to speak truth to power,” said Cheetham Fraillon. “I am grateful Aunty Corrina Eccles and the Wadaworrung people who have demonstrated great generosity by sharing this story with me so that it might be shared with children everywhere.”

Short Black Opera Company (SBO) is a national indigenous not-for-profit company based in Melbourne specializing in training and performance opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performing artists.

Arts Center Melbourne presents Parrwang lifts the sky at Playhouse, Arts Center Melbourne from 7 – 8 July. For more information, visit www.artscentremelbourne.com.au.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo


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