Dutch-Australian composer Meta Overman honoured with new opera

3 June 2019
Sydney Conservatorium of Music Associate Professor Jeanell Carrigan has dedicated years researching women composers of Australia. Her research into Dutch-Australian composer, Meta Overman results in a new performance of Overman's opera Psyche on 17 August.

Associate Professor Jeanell Carrigan has dedicated many years researching women composers in Australia, and has been working tirelessly on Dutch-Australian composer, Meta Overman. As such, Carrigan has single-handedly revived Overman’s work through concert performances, meticulous archival research, critical editions and CD recordings.

One of Carrigan’s major projects and significant research outputs this year is a performance of Overman’s opera Psyche, for which she has orchestrated the work and made a new edition for the performance. Roger Benedict will conduct the orchestra and Narelle Yeo will be directing and performing one of the major singing roles.

Carrigan quoted composer, James Penberthy, who wrote an article in the Sunday Times, Perth, 1955: Who cares that in a small town in Western Australia lives a new Australian who is also one of the world's finest women composers?

Discovering a composer such as Meta Overman is like finding treasure to a researcher.
Associate Professor Jeanell Carrigan, Sydney Conservatorium of Music

"Overman composed with an original voice and was a genius in creating visual images using musical parameters.

“Overman considered Psyche her masterpiece and used many parts of Psyche as the basis for compositions she wrote after 1955,” said Associate Professor Carrigan.

Extensive research went into the orchestration of the score, publication of the score including editorial and background notes and the restaging, and Carrigan will also perform the extensive piano part within the orchestra.

Born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in 1907, Meta Overman survived two world wars and the German occupation. The resilience developed during this time is reflected in her music which is described by critics as innovative, individual, sometimes humorous, and powered by strong visual imagery.

Following her immigration to Australia in 1951, Overman resided in first in Melbourne and then in Perth where she continued to develop compositions for orchestra, choral and chamber works, operas and ballets.

Psyche is unusual in operatic terms in that there is no chorus or huge staging requirements. Also the characters are not all singers. There are two singing roles, one of the main characters is a harpist, another is a solo flautist. Two speaking roles complement the singers and the role of Psyche is performed by a dancer. The opera is in three acts and based the novella Psyche by Dutch author, Louis Couperus.


Free with registration

Open dress rehearsal: 16 August, 6.30 pm

Matinee performance: 17 August, 2pm

Music Workshop, Sydney Conservatorium of Music

1 Conservatorium Road, Sydney

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