The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Sadly, this might serve as a motto both for Ned Kelly himself and for Lost & Found Opera’s recent production of Luke Styles and Peter Goldsworthy’s interesting new opera.
Personally, I’ve always found the national obsession with Kelly somewhat cringe-worthy. He is most famous for his armour and for the shootout at Glenrowan, where it failed to protect him. Perhaps there’s something nostalgic, chivalrous, and even quixotic about wearing a home-made helmet and breastplate in an age of guns and railroads; this may appeal to our endemic national sentimentality. Like the Anzac landing at Gallipoli or the Dismissal of Gough Whitlam, Kelly is remembered ironically more for his defeat – or even as a source of national shame – than for any of his actual or putative achievements. What this says about Australia’s attitude to its heroes (or itself) is moot, but one can’t help reflecting on our settlement as a prison colony and our enduring post-colonial failure to achieve independence from Britain.