Millennial Opera is a cabaret-style show presented as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival. Featuring some of opera’s greatest arias and duets, with lyrics rewritten to reflect modern themes it will be performed by some of Sydney’s best young opera singers.
Its writer, Allison Tyra says “I love the beautiful music of opera, but constantly find myself frustrated by the plots, characters and original lyrics of the works. After attending a production with particularly bad English translations last year, I started wondering why I couldn’t just re-write the words to create something new. That thought turned into the show we will be staging in September. Subjects range from hipsters and a barista’s lament to online dating and the trials of adults living with their parents. The music featured will include works like Nessun Dorma, La Donna e Mobile, and the Habanera from Carmen.”
While she wrote it partially for her own amusement, her underlying goals were to make opera more accessible by putting it in a more informal setting than a three-hour performance, presenting a greater variety of viewpoints than are typically seen in opera and by making it more meaningful to modern, young audiences.
Many of the new themes tie directly back to the context of the original – the Jewel Song, from Faust, for example, is highly narcissistic, making it the natural match for a song about selfies. Il Catalogo, from Don Giovanni, originally about a manservant talking about all the women his master has seduced, has a more positive spin with the singer bragging about all the dogs his friend has rescued. The arrogance of Nessun Dorma is reflected in a white man interrupting the female MC to mansplain about how “woke” he is. The piece also addresses a few opera cliches, such as the typical casting of mezzo-sopranos as boys and older women. This convention is upended in Via resti servita, the duet from The Marriage of Figaro, with the soprano singing the mother’s part while the mezzo-soprano sings the role of the daughter.
Other popular arias featured include Au fond du temple saint from The Pearlfishers, L’amour est un oiseau rebelle from Bizet’s Carmen and La donna è mobile from Rigoletto.
Holly Champion is director and MC, with pianist Viet-Ahn Nguyen, soprano Jessica Harper, mezzo-soprano Rebecca Hart, tenor Claudio Sgaramella and bass Gerard Atkinson.