Richard Mills’ The Butterfly Lovers World Premiere

Richard Mills’ The Butterfly Lovers World Premiere

In an international collaboration between Victorian Opera and Singapore’s Wild Rice theatre, Richard Mills has composed a new opera with a libretto by playwright Joel Tan. Directed by one of Asia’s greatest theatre-makers, Ivan Heng, expect the colour and sound of Chinese culture fused with traditions of opera. 

Yingtai disguises herself as a boy to pursue an education. On the way to commence her studies, she meets Shanbo and they become friends. Confused by their growing attraction, they eventually succumb to their love. But Yingtai is destined for an arranged marriage. Only as butterflies can they be together forever.

In an interview with Ionna Salmanidis, of Australian Music Centre’s ‘Resonate Magazine’, Richard Mills spoke about his compositional process and its musical genesis.

The harmonic subtext underpins the themes and relationships built as layers of fifth chords. These bookend the work, giving way to the idea of vastness, of the horizon, of the union of earth and heavens.  

As described by Richard Mills “That music is at the very beginning with the storm that opens the opera and it comes back later when the storm recurs and the whole metamorphosis occurs of the two lovers.”

The opera features two Chinese instruments, the pipa and the dizi which provide character and the image of ancestral authority. Mills noted the theme of the suppression and commodification of women. “It’s a plea for the dignity of women to be treated as people with their own agency and capacity for destiny”.

An exploration of sexual identity and societal oppression, The Butterfly Lovers is above all else a celebration of love.



1 h 30, no interval

Sung in English



Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse

Wednesday 12 October 2022, 7.30 pm

Thursday 13 October 2022, 7.30 pm

Friday 14 October 2022, 7.30 pm

Saturday 15 October 2022, 1.00 pm, 7.30 pm

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