Going Into Shadows, opus 63 (2001)
The late 20th century has seen a resurgence of new operatic composition, many new works springing from the newspaper headlines and television images of the day. These “CNN operas” – a term coined by a critic to describe John Adams’s 1986 opera Nixon in China – are very au courant, immediate, direct and pull no punches.The acclaimed Black River, premiered in Sydney in 1989, was written by composer Andrew Schultz, to a libretto by his sister Julianne.
A decade on, Andrew and Julianne Schultz have set their sights on a new operatic subject, that of international terrorism and the media’s ambivalent role in reporting and shaping it. Going into Shadows tells the story of the supposed love of a young hotel-worker for a shadowy art dealer. Just as she is about to board a plane to travel to her lover’s homeland for her marriage, the pregnant woman is intercepted at the airport, plastic explosives in her luggage. At her lover’s trial, her testimony sends him to jail.
Years later, on the eve of his release, the man, who has long maintained his innocence, meets his now-grown daughter, who has prepared her own special revenge for him. Capturing this made-for-TV moment is a news crew whose frontman has followed the story over the years. Indeed, at an awards ceremony some years on, it is hinted that he may have had a pivotal role in shaping the course of this drama. Have the players been his pawns? As Joan Didion reminds us, journalism is the art of seduction and betrayal.
Going into Shadows is a three-act opera, comprising two parts separated by an intermission, each half running around 75 minutes. Scored for a cast of twelve and a small orchestra, some of which play onstage at various times, its settings move between various locales in contemporary London – a hotel room, an Irish pub, the airport and an awards ceremony – and, by means of dream-sequences and film flashbacks, time itself shifts with elastic ease.
Though born in Adelaide in 1960, most of Andrew Schultz’s student life was in Brisbane; in 1987 he graduated from the University of Queensland with a Ph.D. in composition. Since then, he has held senior positions at the University of Wollongong and, for the past three years, at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where he is Head of Composition and Music Studies.
Years after the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988, we are confronted by its legacy almost every day. Each time we pass through a security scanner at an airport, we pass into that netherworld of fear and confusion that is the ignition point of Going into Shadows.
© Vincent Plush, Contact Magazine, Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, April 2001.
The premier production of Going into Shadows in 2001 was a major joint enterprise between the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Queensland Conservatorium. Under the supervision of the Guildhall’s Clive Timms, the work was first produced in the 300-seat Opera Studio in London in June 2001 conducted by David Porcelijn. With some student and staff interchange in the production by Stephen Medcalf, in September 2001 it was given its Australia premiere season at the 620-seat Conservatorium Theatre in Brisbane. Michael Morgan conducted the Conservatorium Symphony with a recording made by the ABC. The work was commissioned with Fellowship support from the Australia Council, the Cohen Foundation and the Guildhall, London.
“Lonely voices, mass media and Andrew Schultz’s Going into Shadows” – Dalya M. Crispin
“Of the terrible devastation which is being wrought by the printing press it is still not possible today to have any conception. The airship is invented and the imagination crawls along like a stage-coach. Automobile, telephone and the mass discrimination of stupidity – who can say what the brains of the next generation will be like?”
“Evolution and Travel” – Martin Buzacott
“Tracking down Andrew Schultz for an interview can be a trans-global affair – as I discovered not long ago when writing a profile on him for Australia’s 24 Hours music magazine. I first made contact with the composer when he was in Australia attending some performances of his music. Shortly afterwards he was in America on business, I made further contact with him when he arrived home in London. That was the week before he went down to the south of France.”