Sydney Opera House UnWrapped
Composer Andrée Greenwell’s and librettist Christine Evans’ 75-minute chamber opera “Three Mary’s” is inspired by the medieval myth of three biblical Marys who travelled from the Middle to East to France. In this opera story, the three women are Maria, her daughter Magdalene (Mary) and Sarah-Marie, daughter of Jesus and Mary.
From contemporary times there is a Tunisian fisherman, Marzoug, inspired by a real, Chamseddine Marzoug, who gathers the bodies of drowned migrants he finds to give them burials.
A teenage chorus - representing the voices of children who have drowned over millennia making a similar journey - complete the layering. The libretto is in English and occasionally the chorus sings in English, with French and Arabic.
These layers resonate deeply with the plight of asylum seekers, the fate of women and children in war. And the hope and heartbreak of all young people who grapple with the injustice and inequality of the human condition.
Bass Eddie Muliaumaseali’I (as Marzoug) shines as he anchors the piece on dry land.
Maria (Heru Pinkasova), Magdalena (Jessica O’Donoghue) and Sarah Marie (Samantha Hargreaves) - adrift on a tiny platform - are uniformly excellent. There is absolute clarity of Evans’ imagistic, poetic text as is sung. Of particular note is the spirited newcomer, Samantha Hargreaves, definitely a performer to watch!
Economically directed by Angela Chapman on a lowered Playhouse stage, the action takes place atop a watery mirror surfaced floor; two small platforms that become a broken boat and shoreline; and a sculptural element - that could be as literal as seaweed or metaphorically rising spirits of the dead – provided a pivot around which the chorus can move, hide, and re-emerge. At the back sit an eight-piece ensemble (designer Anna Tregolan). All is conducted from the front by a dazzling Simon Kenway.
This is an exceptional piece of new music theatre. Its story moving, enraging and one of deep sadness. The music, and the text are haunting and something to be revisited. Along with the up-close performances this is a memorable event from the Sydney Opera House’s commitment to presenting works by Australia’s best independent artists. To resource, draw a team together and deliver this work is incredible. Bravo to all who supported Andree Greenwell and her undoubted passion. One hopes it has another outing as a full-scale work. I hear the Opera House is streaming this as part of their on-line offering later this year. Don’t’ miss it!