A visit with the composer who, in a career spanning six decades, has come to define Australian classical music.
I’ve rarely been to this leafy part of Sydney yet I recognise the house immediately. I’ve seen it in biographies and documentaries since the 1970s and very little has changed. The fastidious garden, the white pillars and even the (noticeably newer) red MG convertible in the drive. “I don’t like moving,” Peter Sculthorpe tells me later. At almost 84, he is smaller and greyer than I expected, but the subterranean bass voice is unmistakable. It’s the same voice I remember from countless other interviews: warm and earthy, humble yet assured. I feel immediately at ease.
I’m visiting Australia’s best-known composer ahead of the imminent revamping of Quiros,a TV opera about a Portuguese explorer who thought he’d discovered Australia. It’s remained unstaged since first broadcast in 1982 and is about to be performed again as an oratorio at the Canberra International Music Festival. Like the bulk of Sculthorpe’s music, it was written just a couple of rooms away.
“I bought this house in 1976,” Sculthorpe explains as we head down the hall. I glimpse paintings capturing the famous moustached visage across several decades....