The Golden Age of Australian Opera: W. S. Lyster and his Companies 1861–1880
Currency, illus., index, sec. biblio., 309 p., $33.95 hb, 0 86819 051 9
For those who think that opera in Australia only began to get off the ground this book will come as something of a shock. There was a time, over a hundred years ago, when enthusiastic audiences drawn from across the social spectrum supported ‘regular seasons of the world’s best musical theatre’ by a resident, commercial opera company which played in all the major capital cities. W.S. Lyster’s Opera Company which flourished for twenty years was, in all but name, Australia’s first national opera company. In its first seven years forty-two major operas were included in its repertoire. All this at a time when Australia’s population was a mere fraction of what it is today and without the benefit of government subsidy or private sponsorship. Strange, isn’t it?