Cosmonaut

Opera
The Malthouse, Melbourne, 2004
Melbourne International Festival of the Arts (World Premiere)

Cosmonaut was produced by Dance Works, Wax Sound Media and the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts. NYID was the production's principal supporter.

Music by David Chesworth, Text by Tony MacGregor

Cosmonaut is a contemporary opera about an unusual relationship that develops between a doomed cosmonaut as he floats through space and a lonely woman on earth who dreams of escaping the madding crowd. The opera explores time, mob mentality, the loneliness of the individual and the possibility of connection between two distant souls.

Inspired by the fate of Soviet cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, who was in orbit as the USSR fell apart, the opera takes place over four orbits as our cosmonaut, Viktor Khlebnikov, listens to grabs of intercepted transmissions and broadcasts while the political situation on Earth twists and turns. During this time, he communicates for brief moments with Angela, who, isolated in her suburban Australian bedroom, becomes increasingly obsessed with her doomed spaceman.

Chesworth's score is typically rich in content and eclectic in instrumental approach, especially in the daring and unusual use of pedal steel guitar normally reserved exclusively for quality country music. The overall composition is situated in the mediated world of transmission and broadcasts where audio and images arrive in our own territory from elsewhere: packaged encoded and compressed. The sonic qualities of these recordings play on us in ways that song and musical gesture do not. The broadcasts illustrate mediated realities that, through the act of recording and transmission have become altered in form losing certain details and picking up new resonances. In Cosmonaut, the single most powerful space transmission is that of a solitary voice: a radio transmission of Yuri Gagarin singing and whistling during the first manned space flight.

Directed and designed by David Pledger with NYID collaborators co-designer and LX designer, Paul Jackson, and costume designer, Danielle Harrison, Cosmonaut features a multi-disciplined cast including Grant Smith, Melissa Madden Gray and Dan Witton joined by members of the David Chesworth Ensemble and dancers from Dance Works working under a range of exquisite multimedia projections by James Verdon to provide a vivid and evocative electro-acoustic experience.