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15 September 2008

Kiravanu - new opera for children by MLC and James Humberstone

Young performers in <em>Kiravanu</em> Image: Young performers in Kiravanu  
© Christopher Hayles

This Tuesday night (16 September), MLC School in Burwood, NSW, continue their great tradition of commissioning new works from Australian composers with the premiere of James Humberstone's and Mary Elizabeth’s Kiravanu.

Three years ago MLC performed Benjamin Britten’s children’s opera Noye’s Fludde. The performance - especially the collaborative aspects with staff and students performing together - was such a success that the school's director of music, Karen Carey, asked Humberstone to write a new opera.

MLC School has a composition-rich music programme, lead by head of composition Dr Paul Stanhope alongside composers-in-residence Damian Barbeler and James Humberstone; a programme originally designed by Richard Gill and founding head of composition Matthew Hindson. Students in all years often perform new works by Australian composers and study with the composers-in-residence.

Kiravanu is an opera for K-6 students, involving collaboration with older students and staff of MLC’s primary school, Kent House. An extra layer of collaboration has been added for the premiere with the involvement of a group of primary students from Broken Hill Central Public School, many of whom have travelled to Sydney for the first time to perform in the opera.

The unique approach of Kiravanu is its integration with the school’s curriculum. With this in mind from the very beginning, MLC School commissioned renowned language, literacy and music educator Mary Elizabeth of Vermont, USA, to write the libretto. Mary Elizabeth developed strong contemporary themes and mapped them to the New South Wales K-6 syllabus.

Humberstone, similarly, set the words in a wide variety of musical styles, all within the traditional genre of opera, and wrote extensive music lesson plans which map to the NSW curriculum. The librettist and composer plan to complete the project over the next year with mapping to all Australian state syllabi and to produce supporting materials so other schools with fewer resources than MLC can perform the opera.

The Australian Music Centre connects people around the world to Australian composers and sound artists. By facilitating the performance, awareness and appreciation of music by these creative artists, it aims to increase their profile and the sustainability of their art form. Established in 1974, the AMC is now the leading provider of information, resources, materials and products relating to Australian new music.


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