Antarctic science and art meet for Tasmanian premiere of groundbreaking opera

A unique collaboration between the arts and sciences at the University of Tasmania will be realised with the Tasmanian premiere of the groundbreaking opera ANTARCTICA next month.

ANTARCTICA in concert will represent the culmination of work begun during a symposium at the University’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) in 2019.

The two-day conversation brought together experts from the fields of creative arts, humanities and science, as well as librettist Tom Wright and composer Mary Finsterer.

Mary Finsterer
Creative Fellow Professor Mary Finsterer

“Scientific and compositional processes have a lot in common in terms of their methodologies — from the gathering and analysis of data to the formulation of questions, each requiring a blend of creativity and imagination to unlock their mysteries,” said Professor Finsterer, who is a Creative Fellow in the University’s College of Arts, Law and Education.

“This opera investigates how scientific findings can be communicated through artistic expression, and music’s uniquely affective power to reveal science to itself in unexpected forms.”

Professor Finsterer drew inspiration from the scientific knowledge and techniques discussed at the IMAS symposium to compose the opera. Graphs of tidal currents provided the contours for melodic passages, and sonar sounds were sonically treated.

“Collaboration between scientists and artists broadens the outlook of both,” IMAS Executive Director Professor Nicole Webster said. “We are thrilled that our researchers’ important work on Antarctica and the ocean environment could inspire and feature in a major work such as this.”

First performed at the 2022 Holland Festival and in Australia at the 2023 Sydney Festival, ANTARCTICA will be performed for the first time in Tasmania with the acclaimed Sydney Chamber Opera and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jack Symonds.

Scene from the Antarctica opera
Scene from the full production of ANTARCTICA

Audiences will be taken to the frozen continent through a fusion of classical and contemporary music, joining a cartographer, a natural scientist and a philosopher, each driven by their own aspirations and curiosities.

A multi-speaker immersive sound system will be installed for the first time in a Tasmanian production as part of the concert.

“To unveil ANTARCTICA in its city of origin, amidst the grandeur of the historic Theatre Royal, is a profound and exhilarating honour,” Professor Finsterer said.

A series of panel discussions on a range of Antarctic themes will take place in the lead-up to the concert as part of the College of Arts, Law and Education’s Creative Antarctica research project.

“Australia has a long and rich history of creative artists producing works in response to Antarctica,” Creative Antarctica lead Professor Elizabeth Leane said. “Artistic works can connect people to the continent in unexpected ways.”

ANTARCTICA in concert will take place on Thursday, April 18 at Theatre Royal. Book your tickets here.

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