The first production in Lyric's Australian Opera Series is G.W.L Marshall-Hall's Stella. Composed and set in Federation-era Melbourne, Stella is a powerful and beautiful opera in one-act taking to the stage for the first time in a century.
In partnership with the Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne, the season will include a Symposium on this important opera, the composer and their place in Melbourne's history.
Stella Winton: Lee Abrahmsen
Mrs Chase: Caroline Vercoe
Dr Noel Kirke: Robert Barbaro
Rev. Weldon: Shoumendu Ganguly
Mayor Chamley: Matt Thomas
Director: Jessica Harris
Light Designer: Rob Sowinski
Costume Designer: Sam Fisher
Conductor: Pat Miller
Music Staff: Jane Matheson
Design Partners: CAST
Media Partners: Pesel & Carr
Producer: Katelyn Be
Production and Stage Manager: Annie Reid
Technical Operator: Hayley Fox
DATES AND TIMES
Friday September 25 8pm
Saturday September 26 8pm
Monday September 28 8pm
Wednesday September 30 8pm
UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE SYMPOSIUM
Introducing Marshall-Hall and Stella.
The University of Melbourne will hold a symposium on the afternoon of Saturday September 12. The symposium will focus on Marshall-Hall, Stella and his place in Federation Melbourne.
Set to a libretto with local references, Stella (opera in 1 act: 1910) is a landmark Australian opera by Melbourne’s leading musical personality of the period, G.W.L. Marshall-Hall (1862-1915). Tracing the downfall of a young nurse at the hand of “respectable” society, the plot is a thinly disguised re-working of Marshall-Hall’s own experiences in Melbourne. At times deeply moving, the opera bears the influence of Wagner and Puccini, composers whose operas Marshall-Hall deeply. admired.
Scene 1: In the house of the widowed Mrs Chase her child lies ill, attended by Dr Noel Kirke who is in love with the child’s nurse, Stella. A friend of Mrs Chase, Mostyn Chamley, mayor of the town and President of the Social Purity Society, visits the house which Stella and Kirke who are there conferring over the treatment of the child. Chamley recognises Stella as the girl whom he eloped with ten years before but whom he has since deserted. Chamley, now married with a family and a position to protect, hints at assistance for Stella in return for her silence. Stella treats the offer with contempt but Chamley broods over the power he feels she has over him.
The Rector, Rev. F Weldon, finds Chamley in Mrs Chase’s house and speaks to him about the dislike of the Jewish Kirke’s being called in to attend Mrs Chase’s son. Kirke has dismissed the nurse sent by the Rector and substituted Stella. For a member of his congregation therefore Kirke had in fact substituted a woman the Rector regarded as of bad repute. Like Chamley, he had recognised her as the girl who had run off to have an affair with a man who abandoned her some time later. At the time, the Rector recalls, Chamley was on holiday with the Weldons. The Rector intends to tell Mrs Chase, a member of the Social Purity Society, that Kirke has placed this ‘wicked woman’ in her household and that it can bode no good. Chamley tries to change his mind, saying that to get another nurse at short notice would be difficult. The Rector gives in. Mrs Chase enters and arranges for a meeting of the Society to be held in her house that night, as is usual, and induces Chamley to bring his new hymn for performance.
Scene 2: In the garden of Kirke’s house Stella meets the doctor in order to collect the child’s medicine. She recalls how, by Kirke’s kindness, she has been able to find work as a nurse for some time past. She announces that this happy time must now end but refuses to tell Kirke why. In order to keep her with him Kirke proposes marriage. Stella refuses. Kirke asks is it because she does not love him. Stella bursts into tears. They are interrupted by a manservant who brings the child’s medicine. Kirke gives it to Stella, warning her that it is poisonous if wrongly taken and tells her he will see her later that evening to hear her reply to his proposal. She leaves.
Scene 3: An open scene shows the ti-tree bush, the garden, verandah and lit windows of Mrs Chase’s house where she is welcoming the members of the Social Purity Society. Plcnickers pass in the ti-tree to a moonlight picnic and the strains of a waltz (known as the Stella waltz) are heard. Stella passes sadly into the house as the Rector and Chamley enter. The Rector still intends to tell Mrs Chase of Stella’s past and as Noel enters confronts him. But Kirke says he dismissed the old nurse because she drank. The Rector implies Stella is no better and Kirke demands he explain himself as he is speaking of the woman he has asked to be his wife. Kirke goes into the garden. The Rector and Chamley heatedly discuss the need to tell Mrs Chase the truth while that good lady comes onto the verandah, sees Noel there below and sings of her desire to see a match between Stella and the doctor. Stella comes out, hearing Kirke’s voice, and watches, unseen from among the garden trees. These various threads lead to a Quintet. Mrs Chase leads Kirke off. As the Rector goes to enter the house he comes face to face with Stella. They recognize one another but the Rector passes without greeting her. Agitatedly Stella goes to Chamley and asks if the Rector really knows all. Chamley says he does and that he, the Rector, will tell Mrs Chase as soon as the Society Meeting is over.
Stella considers. She cannot stay and bring dishonour to Kirke, nor leave with her name tarnished in his eyes. Chamley offers to help her. Before she can reply the window near them opens noisily and the Rector is heard announcing Chamley will address the meeting on ‘The Necessity of Pure Ideals in Our Home Life’ and that later Chamley’s new hymn will be sung. Chamley staggers wildly into the house protesting it is all a hideous nightmare. Stella drinks the child’s medicine in a suicide attempt as she hears Kirke coming. He finds her in a state of distress. She tells him of her past. Kirke breaks into an impassioned and generous declaration of sympathy for her. He still thinks her merely distraught as she sinks into his arms, dying, as the voices of the Social Purity Society rise in Chamley’s hymn. General consternation and hysteria break out as first Kirke screams, then the others rush out and realise Stella is dead.