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Victory over the Sun


by Annarosa Berman, courtesy of Sydney Chamber Opera

In Victory Over the Sun, a reworking of Russian composer Mikhail Matyushin’s 1913 futurist opera, SCO and performance and installation artist Justene Williams collaborated to create a contemporary production of a work which librettist Pierce Wilcox has laughingly described as “a strange project even by our standards”. The production sold out and received excellent reviews.

Jason Catlett in Time Out praised it as “beautiful, exotic and thought-provoking….one of – if not the – best things at the Biennale of Sydney”. Wilcox’s impressive libretto was filled with “well-chosen anachronisms and neologisms” and composer Huw Belling produced “an inspired and intriguing” score via an imaginative archaeological investigation of Matyushin’s original.

The production, which included a “spectacular” video by Justene Williams, managed to convey “not just some of the original author’s concept of the future, but also many reflections of other forward-looking fantasies over the ensuing century” and resulted in “a glorious procession of artistic imagination across a century of thought”.

Real Time’s Keith Gallasch wrote that from the original text, designs and a fragment of the score, visual artist Justene Williams and Sydney Chamber Opera had fashioned a largely new work “brimming over with invention, anarchic fervour and a sense of artistic, if not political, transformation.” He praised the scale and sweep of  the production. “This contemporary Victory Over the Sun sings, dances and moves to an engrossingly propulsive keyboard-led score from a tight ensemble seated in a circle at one end of the traverse staging, an integral visual component of the work.”  Huw Belling’s new score for the work was challenging yet engaging, sustaining the impulse of the original, Mitchell Riley’s “huge vocal swoops” were utterly impressive, and Kazimir Malevich’s original costume designs were realised by Justene Williams “with a wonderful mix of fidelity and invention”.

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