Asko|Schönberg & Sydney Chamber Opera


Media Scenography

“Ambitious and exquisite: Antarctica is contemporary opera at its best.”

Sydney Morning Herald

Antarctica is a contemporary opera co-production between Asko|Schönberg and Sydney Chamber Opera that premiered at the Holland Festival before featuring at the Sydney Festival.

Mary Finsterer’s composition is a fusion of early music, contemporary orchestration and sonic recordings made in Antarctica of oceans, sonar signals and the movements of microscopic animals. The stage design responds to this by placing period characters inside a hyper-modern frame of data, mapping connections and dissonances between the Age of Discovery and the Anthropocene.

Noise algorithms randomly select and animate fragments of raw data relating to Antartica, including geographic coordinates, ice core readings, research stations and ancient fauna species, combined with verbatim quotes from flood survivors, sourced from news articles about recent extreme flooding occurrences in Australia.

“Ice is a recording medium and a storage medium. It collects and keeps data for millennia.”

Robert Macfarlane, Underland: A Deep Time Journey

If ice captures moments of life through containing and preserving the past, then ice is synonymous with memory. Antartica is a dissolving place - a place of disappearing memory.

The text-based imagery is displayed on a nine-meter tall LED screen and played live for each performance using a custom coded, real-time, midi-controlled visual instrument. As the imagery is randomly generated and triggered in response to the live music, each performance is unique and never repeated.

Production: Asko|Schönberg and Sydney Chamber Opera
Composer: Mary Finsterer
Librettist: Tom Wright
Conductor: Jack Symonds
Principal Artistic Associate: Dr Huw Belling

Stage Director: Imara Savage
Video Artist: Mike Daly
Set & Costume Designer: Elizabeth Gadsby
Lighting Designer: Alexander Berlage
Sound Engineer: Bob Scott

Singers: Jane Sheldon, Jessica O’Donoghue, Anna Fraser, Michael Petruccelli and Simon Lobelson
with Asko|Schönberg Ensemble

A co-production of Sydney Chamber Opera, Asko|Schönberg and Sydney Festival supported by Carriageworks and the NSW Government through Create NSW.

Photo documentation: Wendell Levi Teodoro
Video documentation: Hospital Hill