The story about the importance of love, compassion and generosity is freshly envisaged in an Australian context in Koehne's new opera. Witness Melbourne-inspired characters from goths at Flinders Street Station to a Surf Life Saving Santa, against the backdrop of terrace houses, the Queen Victoria Markets and the iconic Federation Square. Ebenezer Scrooge, the Ghosts of Christmas’ Past, Present, and Yet to Come, as well as Tiny Tim and the Cratchit Family, are transported to contemporary Melbourne in a sparkling reimagination of this timeless tale.
Koehne recounts “The beautiful thing about Dickens’ book is that the themes are as relevant now as they ever have been. We live in an era of widening inequality and the cult of the dollar is as bad as it ever was in Dickens’ time.”
Musically, the challenges for Koehne included whether to make the sound world entirely contemporary or a mix of influences. Koehne went the latter way with his 100-minute score. “I’ve got references to Christmas carols that cover several hundred years of musical tradition, I’ve got stylistic references to 1950s rock and roll, along with Victorian parlour songs, those sorts of things. It’s a polystylistic grab bag, but I think in the end it still retains an identity of its own and a coherence.”
Goldsworthy’s task was to capture today’s Australia without losing the story’s essence. “So with the Ghost of Christmas Present, the contemporary interpretation of him might not be this hedonistic, feasting Dionysian character he is in the book, but a kind of contemporary Australian interpretation. A hedonistic surfer dude. But the underlying message still comes through. It’s about the moment and enjoying the pleasures of the flesh and the pleasures of eating at Christmas time.”
“Graeme is such an extraordinary pro,” adds Goldsworthy, “so adept at word-setting and really understanding the music of text and vocal effects and allowing that to guide the way he writes the music. It’s been a very happy collaboration. He has the most beautiful lyrical gift, but there’s also a deftness and a wit, too, that I think will keep this opera light-footed but also deeply moving.”
With Koehne’s flair for lastingly memorable melodies alongside Goldsworthy’s gift for storytelling, A Christmas Carol will warm your heart and your ears at its world premiere in December 2022.
The enchanting two-act opera spanning 1 hour and 50 minutes, is on stage from the 14th – 17th of December at the Palais Theatre, St Kilda. Join Victorian Opera in a toast to the end of the year by discovering the magic of opera and Koehne's spellbinding score.