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History is written by the victor and revised by clever women

Culture

Opera Queensland’s production of Lorelei is a tale of femininity and isolation which reveals who our myths and histories are really written for.

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A week-long run of Lorelei is set to open at QPAC’s Concert Hall tomorrow night, after being postponed in 2020 due to COVID-19.

It is a revisionist tale of the mythological siren who sits atop a rock and lures sailors to an early  grave with her singing and her beauty.

Multi-Helpmann award nominee and renowned soprano, Antoinette Halloran, plays one third of Lorelei, alongside Ali McGregor and Dimity Shepherd.

Lorelei was produced by a mostly female cast and crew, including director Sarah Giles, and excavates the myth of the Lorelei in a dazzling opera-cabaret, to reveal the flesh-and-blood woman beneath the male gaze.

“We go into the underbelly of it and work out who these women are and why they’re there. What is the reason they are there? Are they there of their own volition or have they been put there? Can they change their destiny?” said Halloran.

Halloran said the female-led production was cathartic to create but involved a reckoning with painful truths.

“It was painful delve into what it meant to us individually as women. Though we are successful and empowered women, when we were delving into these ideas, we realised how much of our life we have had to battle. We fight for the right to be heard and respected every day”

“I had an eye opening realisation that a lot of the time, even if I feel free, it is a false freedom because it still exists within these boundaries,” she said.

The set design and costuming tells an evocative story. (Image: Pia Johnson)

Halloran said the play, which debuted at the Victorian Opera in 2018 to a sold-out season, feels more resonant now than it did during its debut year because of the nature of women’s affairs in 2021.

“It sometimes feels like a hamster in a wheel where you keep running and get nowhere,” she said. “Having said that, the production isn’t browbeating or dour. It’s very funny and uplifting.”

The production was conceived by Helpmann Award-winner and ARIA nominee Ali McGregor, who said the inspiration and creative partnership was generated from her genre-blending show The Opera Burlesque in 2005.

“That show was designed to bring opera to a slightly more debauched arena and usurp some of those traditional opera stereotypes we found ourselves in,” McGregor said.

“I’ve always been fascinated by this myth because in literature, as in life, we have often seen feminine sensuality blamed for the downfall of man. We see this a lot in the storylines of traditional opera so I’ve loved getting to do something on stage that I feel matters and perform in a role I can relate to,” she said.

Dimity Shepherd as Lorelei B. (Image: Pia Johnson)

Halloran said Lorelei is a celebration of female sexuality and femininity which traverses through genre and stereotypes, using elements of cabaret and burlesque to redefine opera as a space for female empowerment.

“That in itself feeds back into the beauty and the greatness of opera because it becomes refreshed with new ideas. Ostensibly, it is an opera and is sung through opera, but there is definitely something in there for everybody,” she said.

Halloran said every element of production in Lorelei has been cleverly constructed, especially the set design and costuming.

“The Lorelei’s are dressed as if they are going to the Met Gala – in things that looks beautiful but aren’t exactly conducive to freedom of movement.

“The costuming is visually stunning but when you’re actually in there there’s not much room to move. Without giving away too much, it doesn’t stay like that for the whole show,” said Halloran.

Lorelei’s week-long run begins tomorrow night at QPAC’s concert hall, to find out more and secure tickets, go to Opera Queensland’s website.

Lorelei is a tale of isolation and restriction. Image: Pia Johnson

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