New opera is called The Water Babies

Lead role: Cornelius Barnard will play Tom in The Water Babies.

Lead role: Cornelius Barnard will play Tom in The Water Babies.

The Water Babies is a new opera for adults and children, written by the contemporary Australian composer Freddie Hill.

Live lobster: Storyboard illustration for The Water Babies

Live lobster: Storyboard illustration for The Water Babies

It combines genres of contemporary new music, jazz and the occasional nod to Gilbert & Sullivan. The music is abstract and at times complex but also  can be wonderfully accessible with some very hummable melodies. 

The project is the initiative of a new company Tomanelli Inc., formed by Josephine Truman and Hill, to promote and present new musical works.

The opera has already been performed as a workshop concert at the Seymour Centre last June, and has had a successful pop-up concert at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre.

Musically it is contemporary in style and multifaceted. It includes elements of jazz, Victorian music hall, Sondheim, perhaps Sullivan and the atonality of Schoenberg.

The current incarnation of The Water Babies is being touted as a folk opera and deals with themes of ordinary folk. 

The Tomanelli team is currently working with the children of Kindlehill Rudolph Steiner School in Wentworth Falls and will be performing the opera next March (Saturday 4 and matinee on Sunday 5) in the beautiful Kindlehill  performance space. 

Hill has based his work on the Victorian children's classic The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, and creates parallels between "then" and "now" in his work. The tale incorporates gritty social realism of the Victorian era, and combines it with the magic and fantasy, mapping the life journey of its central character Tom, from downtrodden child chimney sweep to an emancipated young man who has transcended the shackles  of  class in Victorian England.

Hill believes the narrative has parallels in our time, concerning child slavery and other issues, and also highlights environmental themes inherent in the work to be more than ever relevant today. 

Some wonderful performers are on board including  local talents Cornelius Barnard (Tom), Sage Rasmussen (Ellie), Niah Jenkin (The Dragonfly),  Rick Ansensio (Grimes),  Briony Hope (The Irishwoman)  Mathew Avery (The Lobster),  Kate O'Sullivan (Lady Salmon),  Hannah Musgrave (The Nursemaid), Colin Semmler (The Professor), Lemuel Appel (Older Tom), as well as Ian Fisher (former Opera Australia, playing Lord Salmon), Elizabeth Hylton (Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby) and Charlotte Campbell (Older Ellie).

The team is seeking more singers for both the adult and children choruses, vocal training preferred. Chorus singers can come from a variety of vocal backgrounds and need not sing in bel canto style. Prior theatrical experience not necessary. Contact tomanelli.inc@gmail.com.

Storyboard illustrations for the performers to use.

Storyboard illustrations for the performers to use.

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