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"Cinema is far too rich and capable a medium to be merely left to the storytellers," said Peter Greenaway, before he gave the flicks the flick and attempted a hybrid of opera enhanced with film. I adore Greenaway’s work, but what a woos. How about the obvious obverse? Enter ABC Arts & Entertainment, OzOpera and MusicArtsDance to take up the vanguard. (Alright, Evita has preceded, but the cinematic version wasn’t an original work.)

Now let it be said that this is not an ambitious project in anything but genre. Which is probably a wise way to start. There is a story—a true one in fact—but it’s so simple even Greenaway would be satisfied. The focus here is mood and character.

And the soundtrack, of course, is critical. The link to opera is not in musical style but in the absence of all but the barest recitative. So whilst the narrative is straightforward enough to be easily carried, the challenges lie in achieving a quality of composition, performance and synthesis of music with other cinematic elements that would engage, inform and entertain us.

In all respects, it is an intrepid effort and mostly, though not entirely, successful. What it lacks is at least one brilliant song. What it has going for it are some absolutely heavenly—appropriately enough—compositions from Mairead Hannan. For mine, the stars of both the soundtrack and the film itself are the Australian landscape and the music it has inspired from Hannan. There is more than a touch of Peter Weir in the essence of the tantalising and dangerous lure of the outback; always a paradox to Colonial Sensibilities: as savage and tragic as it can be enticing and enlightening.

This soundtrack ain’t no Picnic … At Hanging Rock, but there are some wonderful moments for aural indulgence. Uilleann Pipes were launched to fame with Titanic, and fortunately they haven’t sunk into a Celtic cliché. Here, as effectively as Zamfir’s pan flutes in Weir’s film, they evoke a pan-cultural ambience of infinite spaces. Their haunting beauty only surpassed by the wordless, ethereal vocal harmonies that comprise the essential Lunar leitmotif. Even an obligatory didgeridoo is used tastefully and non-gratuitously. However, the details of the terrain and the pangs of loss and cultural conflict central to the film are most vividly echoed in Hannan’s own violins. Lyrical phrases ranging from folksy sweetness to edgy dissonance carry both the drama of the story and the aesthetics of the landscape. And they blend, fold and contrast perfectly with warts and all guitar plucking full of audible, tactile fretwork as fascinating to the ear as a ragged, craggy mountainside to an artist’s eye.

All the vocal performances are strong, and the songs themselves work well in context without rising above standard, country-folk balladry. Kelly performs strongly in the lead role, but he proffered better melodies for Silent Partner.

I do like this soundtrack, some of it immensely, but it is the concept of the overall project I find most exciting. All the musical, thespian and design elements of Opera fall easily within cinema’s scope; and much more. Of course, a canvass is one thing; creating a masterpiece is quite another. In the corner of opera are the works of a few rather competent tunesmiths—from Mozart to Puccini. "Music Drama" for the screen has a long way to go, but this is more than a promising start.
Brad Green

Published November 8, 2001

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Andrew L. Urban talks to

TITLE: One Night The Moon

ID: 7243 5359872 3/EMI


COMPOSERS: Kev Carmody; Mairead Hannan; Paul Kelly; Deirdre Hanna; Alice Garner

MUSICIANS: Spiros Antoniadis; Danny Butler; Kev Carmody; Alice Garner; Deirdre Hannan; Mairead Hannan; Paul Kelly; Francis O’Mara; Yuri Worontschak

ACTOR/SINGERS: Memphis Kelly; Paul Kelly; Kaarin Fairfax; Kelton Pell; Ruby Hunter

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