Into the Shimmer Heat is an epic Australian contemporary chamber opera that embraces and evokes the West Australian desert and celebrates the hardy souls that have perished beneath the blazing sun. At it’s heart, mixed with unimaginable loss and tragedy, there is a clarion call for life, a powerful urging for the depressed and confused to take positive action and “Live On”.
When we immerse ourselves in the flow of an opera we go underneath the surface of life. Like going underwater the noise stops, and we concentrate differently… [Jeanette Winterson]
Into the Shimmer Heat began life as experiment in 1995 between the Nova Ensemble and Spare Parts Puppet Theatre to create an opera for young people. In time the work evolved into a sophisticated work for adults and adolescents that examined endurance, family, love, loss and the ability of newcomers to find a spiritual home in a foreign landscape. The music is immediate, accessible and riveting. The opera is performed by a dancer in the lead role (a girl struck mute by the loss of her father), supported by opera singers, puppeteers and live musicians.
Nova Ensemble has gathered a team of excellence for this groundbreaking performance. The ensemble consists of West Australian artists of the highest calibre, many of whom have international reputations. All are excited and committed to this unique opportunity to showcase our talent in an original work that goes to the heart of the West Australian experience.
No opera plot can be sensible because people do not sing when they are feeling sensible…[W.H Auden]
Into the Shimmer Heat tells the story of Nina, a teenage girl struck dumb since her father disappeared into the West Australian desert. As her mother sings of the father’s disappearance, Nina hides from the reality of her loss by listening to her ipod as they fly high above the landscape in a hot air balloon.
Concerned with Nina’s mental health the mother fails to see an approaching storm, which smashes into the fragile basket. As Nina descends on a parachute she watches her mother crash to a fiery death. Brought to the edge of death and madness, with only champagne to drink, she descends into sun-induced hallucination.
A camel forms from the balloon detritus to transport her across the burning sands.
The Mother arrives at a colourful oasis, the home of the lost spirits, to discover her husband. A colonial explorer, a Chinese gold miner and a pioneer woman share their life-stories before the Mother is given a test of belongingness to see if she may remain in the oasis. When Nina arrives at the oasis she is still alive.
Despite their desire to keep their daughter with them, her parents are forced to send her back into the desert to seek her fate, to “Live-On”, to experience all the struggle, joys and lessons of a fully led life.
Into the Shimmer Heat is a lyrical chamber opera offering great emotional and musical heights and depths, yet constructed to be accessible to a general public and youth audience.
The major role of the mute Nina is to be performed by a young dancer who will use modern dance, contemporary street dance and acting techniques to communicate the trials of a “lost” teenager. In the final bars, she is also required to sing as she finally confronts her destiny.
Puppeteers will be used to manipulate and transform the set. Lighting will be projected onto a compliant set to allow the point-of-view of the audience to shift. At times they will see a vast desert floor with distant mountains and storms only to be instantly brought face to face with vulnerable humans bouncing in a balloon basket or dying slowly in the sands. Manipulation and clever design will allow a colourful oasis, magical beings and live musicians to appear and disappear in an instant. The visuals are inspired by the great West Australian desert.
The audience is immersed in a sonic landscape – environmental recordings made in the Kimberley and played back using surround sound technology. The original score used three musicians and a number of computers driving MIDI instruments to create the “orchestral’ accompaniment. However it is intended to rescore the work for an expanded ensemble to allow all the music to be played live, creating denser, more intricate textures to underscore the psychological flow of the narrative.