Tuesday, 05 March 2024

Reception for Opera Australia and State Opera of South Australia

Rod and I warmly welcome you to Government House this evening.

As enthusiastic patrons of the arts, it is an honour for us to host two such prestigious companies and their supporters - State Opera South Australia and Opera Australia - here in Australia’s oldest Government House.

The Adelaide Festival is such a wonderful time to enjoy Adelaide whether you live here or are interstate or overseas guests.

It is inextricably part of South Australia’s identity. It enriches us. It makes us proud to be the Festival State. Thank you for being part of it.

Last Friday Rod and I greatly enjoyed the opening night of The Nightingale and Other Fables and I am sure our Opera Australia guests are looking forward to tonight’s performance.

I trust you have had a chance to dip into Writers Week and the wider Festival program.

But what is it that makes opera so special, because it is certainly that?

Over the years, I have come to appreciate the artform as offering us a reflection of who we are, how we relate to others, and what it means - collectively and individually - to be human.

Opera performed live is a uniquely thrilling experience and perhaps the most emotionally direct of all art forms.

State Opera’s The Marriage of Figaro in particular left a significant impression on me.

Staged in an office, the production at times – although I won’t say which times! - reminded me of my years in Canberra as a public servant and diplomat.

At Macbeth I was heartened to see a large audience of young people present. Although they are no doubt inured to tales of ambition, betrayal, murder and revenge by more modern fare, it is a work that still has the power to shock.

I know that both State Opera and Opera Australia are enthusiastic about wanting more people in more places to enjoy this compelling art form.

State Opera is, I know, working on a project to appear at the arts festival in Penola in May, and we would love to see the Opera Australia touring program, include the State’s second city, Mt Gambier.

Opera Australia’s West Side Story on Sydney Harbour promises to be spectacular, the iconic setting apart.

And the Great Opera Hits at the Sydney Opera House is an innovative way for audiences - whether long-time fans of opera or those who just have a taste for discovery - to experience famous arias.

Both companies, you could say, were founded on the vision of idealists:

  • The State Opera by a 1976 Act of Parliament, the legacy of Premier Don Dunstan, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude.

  • Opera Australia’s story perhaps is more organic. You probably know it well, but it still bears recounting in its essence: A band of butchers, pharmacists and newsagents gave up their day jobs to celebrate the 1956 Mozart bicentenary with a season of four of his operas. Nine years later they were invited to perform alongside opera’s greats, Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti. Suddenly Australian opera was on the world map and in 1967, the NSW government offered a grant towards the formation of a permanent state company.


I thank Chair Ashley Miller, CEO Mark Taylor, and Artistic Director Dane Lam of State Opera, all in their first year or two of appointment, and the Opera Australia team, including CEO Fiona Allan and your new artistic director Jo Davies, for your shared vision and commitment to artistic excellence.

To those here who are supporters of State Opera and Opera Australia, thank you for your generous support of the arts.

After all, as a community it is important that we invest in that which we cherish. You do so from the heart and we are so much the richer for it.

Thank you all for bringing one of the most beautiful, powerful art forms to Australian audiences.

Coming events