In 1953, John Antill’s early opera Endymion (1929–1930) surprised Sydney and Melbourne audiences with its gentle “pastoral” style, Romantic emotional character, and classical mythological subject. Whereas 1950s audiences associated Antill with his vividly colourful “primitivist” ballet Corroboree (1944) – by then celebrated as an icon of Australian nationalism – Endymion, like Antill’s numerous, mostly incomplete other early operas, was essayed at a time characterised by “colonial dependence” 2 and reflects its essentially European Romantic context. Thus, Endymion and Corroboree demonstrate the radical shift towards creating distinctively “Australian” works in Australian compositions for the theatre – ballet and opera – from the 1930s to 1960s. During this period, Antill completed four operas on colonial or post-colonial subjects, now displaying a mainly neo-classical musical style and setting colloquial texts which betray an often-raffish sense of humour. This chapter will examine Antill’s operatic output with a view to tracking his shift in emphasis from Romantic – including highly fantastic and supernatural as well as mythological, historical and even Biblical – subjects before the War to his operas on Australian themes, with their vividly contrasting emotional climate, now exhibiting both broad comedy and verismo.
|Title of host publication
|Opera, Emotion and the Antipodes Volume II
|Subtitle of host publication
|Applied perspectives: Compositions and Performances
|Jane Davidson, Michael Halliwell, Stephanie Rocke
|Place of Publication
|Published - 2021