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Richard Mills

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll 

State Opera South Australia
16 November 2020

It gives some indication of the relative youth of Australian theatre that Ray Lawler, author of the watershed 1955 play Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (‘The Doll’ for short), is still alive. Ninety-nine years old, he apparently even had a hand in this production, just the second staging of Richard Mills and Peter Goldsworthy’s largely faithful operatic adaptation. Premièred by Opera Victoria in 1996, then remounted by Opera Australia two years later, the opera has not been performed since. It has now been dusted off, with minor changes made by composer–conductor Mills, by State Opera South Australia as part of its three-year ‘Lost Operas of Oz’ project. It’s a mark of Anglo-Australian culture’s immaturity, too, that it remains restless and amnesiac, almost wilfully ignorant of the past in its perpetual quest for the ‘next big thing’.   

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The composer Richard Mills and the poet and novelist Peter Goldsworthy have renewed their collaboration to produce an opera based on the Wreck of the Batavia (Previously, the pair adapted Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll for the opera stage.) The new work will be premiered at the Melbourne State Theatre on May 11, in an Opera Australia production. It depicts the notorious events that followed the famous shipwreck off the coast of Western Australia in 1629.

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