Lyndon Terracini: The 2011 Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address

The artistic director of Opera Australia on why the artform needs to adapt and reach out to survive.

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Populism as Art and the Art of Populism
Lyndon Terracini's 2011 Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address. Courtesy of the New Music Network.

Let me now begin by saying that I met Peggy Glanville-Hicks on a number of occasions... She was a feisty vibrant character with a provocative mind which she used with startling wit and intelligence. She thought about art and culture in the broadest sense and so I hope this evening I can do justice to the sort of address she would have considered worthy of her name.

Peggy wrote a number of operas and we shared many discussions about music, the merits or lack of merit of some rather famous composers and about the world in general. We had an unusual relationship which I found very stimulating and thought-provoking.

However, although the conversations with Peggy and many other composers over the past three decades have been highly stimulating and always interesting, nothing thrills me more than hearing a great singer... Except a great singing actor. When an artist understands how to weave the text and the music together and is able to communicate every individual moment within a musical and dramatic context to the audience, it is a wonderful and often awe-inspiring experience. In fact there is nothing that moves me, or thrills me more, than what I would describe as total music theatre. Fortunately for me, music and theatre are my hobbies as well as being my profession, or more specifically, my life, and that has been the case since I was about 3 years of age. However, I specifically love the operatic form and have done since I first heard the late Donald Smith sing Calaf in Turandot at the Elizabethan Theatre in Newtown when I was a very young man.

Consequently, everything I will say this evening comes from that love of the form, of singers, musicians and in fact everyone who works to make art and embrace audiences in this greatest of all artforms.

And it's because of that love and passion for music and the theatre that some of what I have to say this evening will be difficult and possibly provocative and controversial. However, we are living in a very volatile cultural environment and my love for the importance of the making of art and its connection with a broader community has given me the courage to say what I believe must be said tonight.

What I would like to say this evening can be applied to classical music in general, but I will try to confine my comments to the form to which I am most closely connected... Opera.

It's now two years since I took up my position as artistic director of Opera Australia and I've had time to understand the company, the culture in which it works and its position as a leader in the cultural life of Australia.

As the largest performing arts organisation in the country there is a great deal of responsibility associated with the position that I hold, which needs to not only deliver the operatic artform to the widest possible audience, but it also needs to contextualise what the operatic form means to contemporary Australians.

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Lyndon Terracini: The 2011 Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address
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