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World premiere co-presented with Sydney Festival and
Ensemble Offspring

  • Music & Concept
  • Mary Finsterer
  • Libretto
  • Tom Wright
  • Conductor
  • Jack Symonds
  • Director
  • Janice Muller
  • Set & Costume Design
  • Charles Davis
  • Lighting Design
  • Matt Cox
  • AV Design
  • James Brown
  • Creative Consultant
  • Matthew Lutton
  • Gerolamo Cardano
  • Mitchell Butel
  • Singers
  • Jane Sheldon, Jessica O’Donoghue, Anna Fraser, Andrew Goodwin, Simon Lobelson
  • Instrumentalists (Ensemble Offspring)
  • Miki Tsunoda & Anna McMichael (violin), James Wannan (viola), Freya Schack-Arnott (cello), Kirsty McCahon (double bass), Lamorna Nightingale (flute), Jason Noble (clarinet), Christina Leonard (saxophone), Rowan Phemister (Harp), Zubin Kanga (Piano), Claire Edwardes (percussion)
  • Assistant Conductor
  • Huw Belling
  • Assistant Director
  • Danielle Maas
  • Production Manager
  • Damion Holling
  • Stage Management
  • Georgiane Deal, Cheng Tang

Filmed and edited by Hospital Hill

Premiered by Sydney Chamber Opera in Sydney Festival 2017, this collaboration with Ensemble Offspring resulted in a fantastic new opera by one of Australia’s leading composers.

Mary Finsterer had been planning Biographica for more than a decade and SCO was finally able to bring her vision to life. The piece was described by The Australian as “inventive, engaging, stimulating and moving… an outstanding new opera which deserves regular performances as well as a permanent place in the repertory.”

The opera portrays the extraordinary life of Renaissance polymath Gerolamo Cardano, here performed by beloved Australian actor Mitchell Butel. Cardano was a magnificent and eccentric mind – a prolific inventor and flawed father, solitary, aggressive, peculiar. A man who would listen to a guardian angel, swear by science, and dream of defeating time. He wrote the first texts on the mathematics of gambling, was a world-renowned surgeon, invented algebra, and was a pioneer of sign-language.

A quintet of singers create a colourful cross-section of Cardano’s family as well as uniting in madrigal-style choruses of piercing beauty, reflecting Finsterer’s distinctive filtering of Renaissance music – “a collision of the sensual and the rational” (SMH) A crack team of virtuosic players from Ensemble Offspring make Finsterer’s intricately woven lines dance and sing.

The production is directed with clarity and flair by Janice Muller with stunning costumes by Charles Davis.

TimeOut commented that “a triumphant level of achievement is what Sydney has come to routinely expect from the SCO; this premiere of a much-anticipated work… shows they are now a significant national cultural asset.”

Read the synopsis and Mary Finsterer’s program note

Read Annarosa Berman’s interview with Mary Finsterer

Biographica was supported by the Australia Government through the Australia Council, its arts advisory body, and the NSW Government through Create NSW. Biographica received seed funding from the Australian Government’s Major Festival Initiative in association with the Confederation of Australian International Arts Festivals.

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