Madeline Lee premiered at the Sydney Opera House on 8 October 2004 in a production directed by Michael Cambell. The production was warmly received and
The story of the opera is based on the disappearance of the B-24 bomber ‘Lady Be Good’ in 1943 over North Africa. It concentrates on themes of dislocation, memory, isolation and identity. The plot focuses on the internal relationship between the dead crew and the Major, who heads the search and rescue party sent to survey the wreck. The revelation of their intertwined fate culminates in a dramatic re-enactment of the Madeline Lee’s final bombing mission over the Mediterranean.
The opera was first drafted in 1990, but gained creative impetus after the composer John Haddock survived the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 along with six other colleagues from Opera Ausralia. In partnership with the director and dramaturg Michael Campbell, the script was re-written, focussing on how traumatic events alter the way humans remember things, especially the feeling of dislocation of time and the loss of identity.
The opera received widespread critical acclaim. Critics called it “a forceful account of an encounter between a person and his memories… a strange, strong statement, built on sound operatic understanding by a promising new operatic talent.” Others described it as “a compelling and haunting work about the power of memory and how it affects our lives. Haddock and Campbell’s lyrical and elegiac libretto is so good that, at times, it rises to the level of poetry. Madeline Lee is an important achievement in Australian Opera…” and… “Madeline Lee is one of those rare operas where music, drama and emotion synthesize into moments that feel incredibly immediate and real…a truly riveting piece.”
Madeline Lee was consequently nominated for seven Helpmann Awards in 2005. cert was recorded live by ABC for broadcast the following year.
The Major Michael Lewis
Lieutenant Douglas McNicol
Pat Nicolas Todorvic
Ben Judd Arthur
1st Officer Jose Carbo
2nd Office James Payne
3rd Officer Richard Anderson
Designer Brian Thomson
Lighting Stephen Wickham
Assistant Director Matthew Barclay
Conductor Tom Woods