The Water Babies is a new opera for adults and children, written by the contemporary Australian composer Freddie Hill. 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 Freddie 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 is 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" a very interesting mix of "the community" and "the professional”, and deals with themes of ordinary folk.
The Tomanelli team are currently working with the children of Kindlehill Rudolph Steiner School in Wentworth Falls and will be performing the opera next March on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th (matinee performance) in the beautiful Kindlehill performance space.
Tomanelli are hoping to take the production further afield to other venues from that point on.
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 as Lord Salmon), Elizabeth Hylton (Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby) and Charlotte Campbell (Older Ellie).
The team are 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.