into the SHIMMER HEAT began life as an experiment in 1995 between the Nova Ensemble and Spare Parts Puppet Theatre to create an opera for young people that examined the problem of youth suicide. By the time a highly successful public workshop presentation took place in 1997, the work had evolved into a sophisticated work for adults and adolescents that examined endurance, family, love, loss, the absurdity of life in a numinous universe and the ability of newcomers to find a spiritual home in a foreign landscape.
The opera tells a simple and highly emotional tale with passion and surprising humour. The music is immediate, accessible and riveting. After recent reworking the opera will now be 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.
into the SHIMMER HEAT is a lyrical chamber opera featuring a dramatic narrative, as well as colourful and inventive instrumentation. As well as offering great emotional and musical heights and depths it has been 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, Sophie Burgoyne, 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, playing visual games with space, distance and perspective. They will bring to life a pile of wreckage, forming a camel that transports Nina across the burning sands. They will create a giant snake/spirit who embodies the life-force of the land, and animate mini-versions of the characters and a host of spirit figures to populate the opera. 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 will be vibrant, scary and mystical – inspired by the great West Australian desert.
The audience will be 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 the work has been rescored for an ensemble of six multi-instrumentalists, allowing all the music to be played live, creating denser, more intricate textures to underscore the psychological flow of the narrative.
We believe that a new work designed to exploit the electronic fly-tower, the top-of-the-range lighting and sound equipment, beautiful acoustics and sprung stage will be a crowd pleaser. Whilst the design will also allow a less high-tech presentation in the major stages of WA’s rural theatre centres we will also be actively developing the opportunity of staging the work in the similarly equipped new theatres of the Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre and theatre complexes in Singapore and South East Asia.