Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Creative Arts


Composers of Australian operas, in the decade from 1988 to 1998, have responded to social and political events through the medium of central characters. In each of the seven operas in the study, a character becomes the signifier of reflections on events and conditions that affect Australian society. The works selected are Andrew Schultz's Black River, Gillian Whitehead's The Bride of Fortune, Moya Henderson's Lindy - The Trial Scene, Richard Mills' Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Alan John's The Eighth Wonder, Martin Wesley-Smith's Quito and Colin Bright's The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. These operas are studied in three groups to investigate issues that concern voices of w o m e n in the contemporary operatic genre, issues of cultural identity and issues of political protest.

Grounding its readings of characters in the operas in theories of multiply constructed identity, the thesis contends that the central character in each opera represents a discourse, whether it be, for example, of alienation or justice. Primary sources for the seven operas include scores, librettos, recordings of performances and workshops, and interviews with the composers and librettists. Interviews, compositional notes and reports on performances are collected in the Appendices to the thesis. Comparative studies are made with operas in the repertoire in the exploration of dimensions in Australian opera in the 1990s. An argument that is consistently taken throughout the thesis is that the signs that musically manifest character aspects are semiotically decipherable. Using a range of methodological perspectives, the readings in the thesis demonstrate the power which accrues to authenticity of voice in contexts which are drawn from recent Australian experiences.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.