This weekend ABC’s Indigenous programme Message Stick will feature a story on Australia’s first Indigenous opera, Pecan Summer: Empowering Voices.
Presenter Miriam Corowa takes viewers behind the scenes as internationally acclaimed Indigenous soprano and author, Deborah Cheetham scours the country looking for Indigenous singers capable of performing in Australia’s first Indigenous opera.
Filmed over a year, the two part series chronicles the highs and lows as these emerging singer train under under Deborah Cheetham’s tuition.
Cheetham, who also writes the score and libretto says, “We are born to sing. It’s a part of our culture, part of the everyday life of our culture and I’m sure that, you know, even though I was brought up in that white suburban landscape as a stolen generation child, there’s genetic memories in me that says ‘you’re born to sing’, it‘s part of your heritage, you’re born to tell stories, well, to me that’s opera. Telling a story through song, that’s what opera is.
The opera tells the story of nine year old Alice and her family. The summer of 1939 changes the lives of the people of Cummeragunja forever and Alice’s world is set to be torn apart.
“These singers in this opera represent the beginning of Indigenous voice in the world of classical music in Australia. That’s, that’s big. And we need to empower them in every way that we can, not just technically, but emotionally and spiritually and say ‘yes, this is your right to do this.’… And if you’re good enough, the fact that you’re Indigenous shouldn’t hold you back. And ah, we’re gonna make sure that it doesn’t’ hold them back.”
It airs on Message Stick 1:30pm Sunday November 15 and 22 and is repeated at 6pm Friday ABC1 / 5pm Monday ABC2.