From European Romantic to 'Wild Colonial Boy'? John Antill and Post-Colonial Australian Opera

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOpera, Emotion and the Antipodes Volume II
Subtitle of host publicationApplied perspectives: Compositions and Performances
EditorsJane Davidson, Michael Halliwell, Stephanie Rocke
Place of PublicationUK
ISBN (Electronic)9781003035930
ISBN (Print)9780367476977
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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