EVEN after countless rehearsals, the University of Southern Queensland’s Caitlin Munro can’t help but tear up at the closing scenes of Australia’s first Indigenous Opera, Pecan Summer
The Toowoomba university’s new Student Relationship Officer said the opera, which tells the true story of the 1939 Cummeragunja walk-off protest, never failed to be beautiful and moving to her.
Miss Munro plays the nameless “Daughter”, based on composer’s Debora Cheetham’s actual experience as a member of the Stolen Generations.
‘I still find it hard not to cry at the end,’ Miss Munro said.
‘Every time we perform it, it moves me because the story it tells is so heart-wrenching.’
Miss Munro said she was looking forward to the show’s third yearly tour, which will be heading to Perth in September.
Last year she performed with the 40-strong, mostly Indigenous cast in Melbourne and Shepparton, Victoria (where the opera is set) the year before.
‘It was really nerve-wracking performing in Shepparton; not only was it our first major performance but were telling a story that many of the audience members had actually lived through,’ Miss Munro said.
‘The feedback we received was incredible.
‘We had one 77-year elder come up to us and say “I’ve never seen an opera in my life and I actually didn’t find it boring at all” which is very high praise indeed,’ she joked.
Miss Munro studied opera at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffin University and majored in Indigenous Studies at USQ, so it’s only natural an opera about a significant Indigenous protest would appeal to her.
‘When I found out composer Debora Cheetham had already cast the show, I sent her an email asking if she knew of any similar productions I could apply for,’ she said.
‘Her response was: “Come down to Sydney for an audition”.
‘She said she had “found her daughter” when I auditioned and changed the role to suit my voice.’
‘It’s been really daunting playing a role based on Debora’s own experiences.’
Miss Munro said she was such a fan of Pecan Summer that she had a line from the opera tattooed on her ribs.
‘I had the great honour of being granted permission from Yorta Yorta elders to get the line “to dance along her path” written in Yorta Yorta tattooed on me,’ she said.
‘I just thought it was a really beautiful line.’
Jim Campbell, USQ Media, +617 4631 1163, firstname.lastname@example.org
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