The bombing of the Greenpeace vessel, the Rainbow Warrior in 1985 had a profound effect morally and historically in the South Pacific. A work such as the Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior is both a reflection of the psychological state of the times and an allegorical comment on relevant social and political issues. In the opera we collide mythic and poetic forms with direct quotation from political speeches, law court transcripts, intelligence agents' double speak techniques, activist rhetoric and a Tahitan woman's testimony. Quotations from French Officials coexist with the first descriptions of nuclear explosions in 1945 by Manhattan Project scientists and U.S. President Truman. We also incorporate broadcasts from Australian, New Zealand and French archives and make allusions to French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan's concept of 'the real'. In some senses myth is an unconscious element of history. Our opera combines mythic, poetic and documentary elements in a narrative that constantly shifts temporal and spatial frames to explore the reverberations of the bombing in July 1985 and throughout the following decades. Colin Bright & Amanda Stewart
The Song Company
An opera in six scenes - Duration: 72 minutes (1993-1998)
The bombing of the Greenpeace vessel, the Rainbow Warrior in 1985 had a profound effect morally and historically in the South Pacific. A work such as the
Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior is both a reflection of the psychological state of The times and an allegorical comment on relevant social and political issues. In the opera we collide mythic and poetic forms with direct quotation from politicalspeeches, law court transcripts, intelligence agents’ double speak techniques, activist rhetoric and a Tahitian woman’s testimony.
Quotations from French Officials coexist with the first descriptions
of nuclear explosions in 1945 by Manhattan Project scientists and U.S. President Truman. We also incorporate broadcasts
from Australian, New Zealand and French archives and make reference to French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan’s concept
of ‘the real’. In some senses myth is an unconscious element of history. Our opera combines mythic, poetic and
documentary elements in a narrative that constantly shifts
Colin Bright &
|Clive Birch - Bass Baritone|
|Nicole Thompson - Soprano|
|Jo Burton - Alto|
|Ruth Kilpatrick - Soprano|
|Paul McMahon - Tenor|
|Mark Donnelly - Baritone|
|Scene||Libretto - extracts||Synopsis|
|everything rests in suspended time
dark shapes take form
along the line of shore
the underside meets the surface
the darkness, its taste
| ..In New Zealand two explosions have
destroyed the Greenpeace protest vessel, Rainbow Warrior
…The crew says the first blast set the boat on its side… the second was two minutes later...
I the it
i…the I ..it
chaos notates order in
|Fernando Pereira, Greenpeace photographer died July the 10th, 1985.
The spectre of Fernando emerges from a blue, shifting underworld...
|In no way
was France involved!
As if we
would deal with our opponents in such ways!
Free speech and opposition
have made French democracy strong...
...It w w w would s s seem to appear
that the the F F French Secret S S S
w w w w w w w w w w was involved
in L’Affaire Greenpeace.
|Two spies, Prieur and Mafart have been apprehended for questioning by the Activist
and the Ally, Frederique...
The Narrator, Fernando, moves between them, unseen, yet trying to influence the proceedings...
...the French Government is of course involved…
…today in Auckland sentences of 10 years jail were imposed on two French secret agents
|everything’s relative in the doctrine of commodities
past sentiment, past modern, post capitalist intelligence
arbitrary as empires, the European theatre the Pacific outposts
the fortress of the visible licking the map
the nets thrashing with slow death and light.
|...the French would oppose New Zealand’s European Economic trade access……Mafart and Prieur will be reassigned, not imprisoned, on a tropical island with a lagoon, a cinema, bars and a night club…|
| We are the spectacle of justice
We are actors in the human tradition
t t t y
your will is our submission to a principle
binding us closer for of and the f
the the the for
|…France had agreed to hold the agents for three years, but the pair found their
way home within two years…
…French action is a blatant and outrageous breach of the adjudication…
…Jaques Chirac even sent his defence minister out to the airport to welcome home his secret agent..
“…I cannot believe it; I am dumbfounded…this just another example of the French hypocrisy over the whole affair not just the bombing, and murder, but their whole activities in the Pacific…”
|Nobody can speak freely
Teva’s house was destroyed by fire...
Toimata ...Eugene, my fourth baby, was born at full term but died when he was two months old. He had diarrhoea. When it stopped it was replaced by another condition. The baby became rigid like wood. Every part of his body was racked by continuous muscular contractions and he had a high temperature. It was impossible to open his fists. The doctors would not talk about his condition. I think my children died because my husband worked at Moruroa.
|In the Pacific - the Activist and Ally continue to organise the flotilla’s advance
The Activist plays back a tape recording of her transcription of Toimata’s testimony.
The Official prepares for a visit to Moruroa
Meanwhile, the Activist and Ally continue to organise the flotilla’s advance on Moruroa.
|I was impressed
by the improved
appearance of the Moruroa area...
...Not a single particle
of radioactive fallout
will ever reach an inhabited island.
In an era of nuclear energy
Tahiti may become a centre of rebirth
for our whole civilisation!
|The Official arrives in the Pacific to observe the latest testing programme.
The spies join the Official in celebratory song.
Slowly, Fernando, the Activist and Ally approach overlaying an alternate message as they prepare for confrontation.
|the agent the virus
inside us all the time
eating us from within
the circle, the cycle
rases oceans to fire
...history is what I say it was
when it was how it was
that’s how it is that’s that...
...dreaming in the future
in equations of the past
a syntax of artifacts...
at the centre
there is no sound
|Another abstracted explosion breaks the scene. The Activist’s scream emerges from
it. The Ally dispatches a report to the French authorities on short wave radio.
The Activist realises that Greenpeace has been betrayed.
...they boarded us. There were six inflatables of French commandos decked out in balaklavas and helmets, and sort of riot gear and they took over the bridge…
...here the dream
...here the maelstrom...
the war of the...
the law of the...
The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior was originally commissioned by the Australian Music Centre as part of the one-act opera project in 1991. The work was completed in 1993 and was workshopped by Sydney Metropolitan Opera. Its first public performance was by The Song Company and austraLYSIS at the 1997 Sydney Festival. In 1999 it was adapted for ABC Radio, with the addition of recordings from radio and television archives of the ABC, Radio New Zealand and ound Archives/Nga Taonga Korero. These include the voices of President De Gaulle, New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange, Alain Mafart, Oscar Temaru, French Prime Minister Fabius, and Greenpeace members Steve Sawyer, Carol Stuart.
Musicians - austraLYSIS
Director / keyboards bass/bass guitar keyboards recorders violin percussion clarinets
Director / keyboards
Colin Bright (born 1949) has received a Composer’s Fellowship and an International Fellowship from the Australia Council, as well as numerous commissions from Australia’s leading ensembles. His music has been performed and broadcast throughout Australia as well as the USA, UK, Europe and Scandinavia. He has composed several works for outdoor performance including Fire on the lake which drew thousands of people to Bondi Beach and Narrabeen lakes. ‘I like the idea of taking opera outdoors and to the people. Personally, I don’t like going to opera houses and concert halls - they’re a relic of a European past. This is an outdoors country and aspects of performance art should reflect and adapt to this part of our
culture - something Aboriginal and Asiatic culture has always done.’
Amanda Stewart (born 1959) has created a variety of poetic texts, performances, radio and film projects in Australia, Japan, the US and Europe. From 1983-1993 she worked full time at ABC Radio in Sydney and, in 1990, co-wrote and directed the award winning film, Eclipse of the Man Made Sun. As a poet, performer and improviser she works as a soloist and in collaboration with other artists including the Australian quintet, Machine For Making Sense, co-founded in 1989 and the Netherlands trio, Allos, cofounded in 1995. Her CD/book set of
selected poems, I/T, won the 1999 Anne Elder Poetry Prize at the National Literary Awards, Australia.
Roland Peelman has overseen the artistic development of The Song Company since 1990. His affinity for early music goes back to his youth in Flanders and his commitment to new music was honed through extensive instrumental studies as a pianist and conductor with a number of leading specialists of contemporary music in Ghen (Belgium) and Cologne (Germany). Roland emigrated to Australia in 1984. He has conducted Opera Australia and Opera Queensland and has instigated and conducted many new Australian operas with Sydney Metropolitan Opera and Chamber Made Opera. He was Chief Conductor of the Hunter Orchestra in Newcastle from
1990 to 1997 and has worked with most orchestras and contemporary music ensembles in Australia. He is a member of the Music Council of Australia and Vice-President of the New Music Network in Sydney.
Since its establishment in 1984 The Song Company has developed into one of the most original and outstanding vocal ensembles in the world. The ensemble’s repertoire covers vocal music
from the 12 th century to the present day and is unique in its stylistic versatility. The company presents an average of 150 concerts annually in Australia and abroad. It has a long-standing commitment to education under the umbrella of Musica Viva and presents a growing annual
subscription series in Sydney and surroundings. The ensemble also continues to be involved in some of the most innovative contemporary music theatre in Australia and actively promotes Australian music overseas.
austraLYSIS is an international ensemble creating and performing new music and polymedia, both composed and improvised. austraLYSIS places particular emphasis on compositions from Australia and the UK and collaborates with imaginative performers involved in contemporary music in Australia. austraLYSIS also creates jazz and improvised musics, sound, text and
performance art. austraLYSIS has performed in 30 countries, and appears on more than fifteen
commercial vinyl, cd, cd-rom and other releases.
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