Can a composer living in the 21st century create a canon of operas to be performed by leading artists before a large audience? French composer Pascal Dusapin can. He has done precisely this since the 1980s, when his radical adaptation of Romeo and Julietopened a new way for music theatre, followed by adaptations of Medea, Faust, Orpheusand, most recently, Penthesilea.

“Dusapin’s art worms its way into the stories it tells, irradiating them with a timeless energy”

Looking at the above, Dusapin clearly prefers to work with archetypical, mythic stories, finding contemporary resonances, presumably in a nod to increasing audience comprehension. So far, so safe – a hundred other contemporary opera composers do the same. However, Dusapin’s art is subtler than that, worming its way deep into the stories it tells and irradiating them with a strange, timeless energy that could only be a product of a very specific time and place.

In the 2016 Sydney Festival, Sydney Chamber Opera will present two of his recent stage works – Passion(2008) and O Mensch!(2009), illustrating the breadth and range of this major composer. In Passion, Orpheus and Eurydice are simply named ‘Him’ and ‘Her’ and are...

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