Date(s) - 09/09/2020 - 12/09/2020
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Olive Pink Botanic Garden
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The Olive Pink Botanic Garden will present the Olive Pink Opera, a new work by composer Anne Boyd AM, as the signature event of, and in partnership with, the Desert Song Festival in September 2020.
The Opera explores and celebrates the extraordinary life of Olive Pink, a woman ahead of her time and an outspoken advocate for Aboriginal rights. The Olive Pink Botanic Garden was founded in 1956 by Olive Pink (1884-1975), who was also an early advocate and practitioner of native plant gardening.
The creative vision of the Olive Pink Opera is to bring together the rich heritages of Aboriginal culture and opera to create a transformative arts experience and a new version of opera in Australia. Nowhere else does such an opportunity exist to bring a nationally and internationally recognised composer, the iconic Desert Song Festival, with the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir and other Aboriginal artists, together with NT and other Australian artists, to create a new vision of telling uniquely Australian stories through opera.
A reconciliation work underpinned by both ways collaboration, the Opera engages intercultural and inter-generational artists, including traditional singers and dancers of the Arrernte and Warlpiri peoples.
The Opera will have 4 outdoor performances, September 9-12, 2020 in Olive Pink’s Garden.
The Garden’s intent in producing the Opera is to celebrate, promote and explore reconciliation, intercultural understanding and social connections. The Olive Pink Opera is an entrepreneurial collaboration with the Desert Song Festival which will further the Garden’s commitment to promoting reconciliation through arts and culture.
The Garden’s past events include the successful play The First Garden. Based on the life and loves of Olive Pink, it explored key narratives in Australian identity, Aboriginal rights and dispossession, environmentalism and loss. The First Garden was produced by the Olive Pink Botanic Garden, with performances in Sydney, Darwin and Alice Springs in 2013.
Philanthropist and business woman Pam Usher has been the keystone funder of both the The First Garden and the Olive Pink Opera. Her vision and early support gave confidence to the Olive Pink Botanic Garden Board to commit to the projects, and to other funders and stakeholders to sign on. Without Pam’s generous support, it is likely that neither The First Garden nor the Olive Pink Opera would have proceeded.
The First Garden really was in many ways the original source and inspiration for the Olive Pink Opera. Anne Boyd AM first heard of Olive Pink when she attended a performance of The First Garden in the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. Inspired by Olive Pink’s story, Anne decided to write an Olive Pink opera.
Anne Boyd AM first heard of Olive Pink when she attended a performance of The First Garden in the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. Inspired by Olive Pink’s story, Anne decided to write the Olive Pink Opera.
Anne is developing an Australian heritage series of operas focused around heroic Australian women who lived and worked with Aboriginal people. The Olive Pink Opera is the second in this series and has an underlying theme of reconciliation. Anne is recognised for, amongst other things, working successfully in creative intercultural partnerships with communities.
Anne says, “In 21st century Australia, telling such Australian stories with authenticity involves a ‘Two Ways’ process honouring Indigenous insight and creativity”.
Set in the garden itself, the Opera draws upon local characters and events told by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community members. It tells the story of the last decades of Olive Pink’s life when she created the Garden, together with Warlpiri man Johnny Tjampitjinpa. A first for any Australian opera, it features the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir and the Warlpiri Southern Ngaliya Singers and Dancers. Except for three master musician roles, vocalists, musicians, and young artists are all drawn from the Alice Springs community.
“The Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir has an especially significant role as commentators on the dramatic action – rather like a Greek chorus”, Anne says.
The Creative Direction team is headed by Alice Springs based Steve Kidd and Nicole Evans, and includes Morris Stuart, Director, Desert Song Festival, well as highly skilled and well recognised musicians. The Opera Directors intend to leave the audience with an authentic depiction of Olive’s values, her struggles and the relationships that supported her. They regard the Garden itself as a dramatic persona in the Opera and they prioritise sensitive intercultural directorial decisions in all aspects of the production.
The Opera is relevant and timely. Australia is grappling with reconciliation as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples continue to strive for recognition of their stories and perspectives within the story of Australia. Through the Opera, Alice Springs, visitors and communities across Australia, will be provided insights through shared stories that will strengthen the connections between all members of the community, and it is hoped, will help facilitate reconciliation.
The production of the Opera, written by internationally recognised composer Anne Boyd AM, presents major opportunities for the artists and the community of Alice Springs. It will enhance the perception of Alice Springs as a site of innovative, intercultural arts, and create an exciting opportunity for its community to collaborate in telling and celebrating a story which has national significance, but truly belongs to the local community. Many Central Australian families, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, have stories of Olive Pink, creating great potential for the Opera to generate a sense of shared experiences and identity.
The vocalists, the diverse Aboriginal groups, classical musicians, the Master Musicians and the children’s groups will interact and create the opera together. This will provide rich and authentic opportunities for collaboration across culture, generations and genres.
For the local, interstate, and overseas audience, the opportunity to experience the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir, the Southern Ngaliya Singers and Dancers, and young Aboriginal artists in the atmosphere of the Olive Pink Botanic Garden, will provide new insights into the diversity and richness of Aboriginal culture.
A preview of the Opera was performed on Thursday 12th September at the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens. 240 people attended the sell-out event, including guests from inter-state and overseas. Julie Marcus, author of The Indomitable Miss Pink, the landmark biography on Olive Pink, travelled from Adelaide to attend. She described the launch and preview as a ‘triumph’! Indeed ‘triumph’ was the resounding sentiment expressed by both artists, and the audience.
David and Christa Buckley from the Blue Mountains heard opera composer Anne Boyd interviewed by Macca on Australia All Over, and travelled all the way to Alice Springs for the preview. While they were here, they attended all of the Desert Song Festival events! “We were so please we went. The whole Festival was wonderful. The Opera Preview’s music and vocals were beautiful and moving” they said.
Ian Coleman, Garden Curator said he couldn’t be happier with the preview and launch. “I too was very moved. The Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir combining with the classical musicians was truly a magical experience. If the Opera itself is anything like its preview, it will be extraordinary”.
Register your interest in coming to this ground breaking opera by providing your email address below and we will let you know as soon as tickets become available.