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Dwelling Structure : In Opera in 8 Time Use Episodes single work   musical theatre   opera  
Note: Libretto by Cynthia Troup.
Issue Details: First known date: 2011... 2011 Dwelling Structure : In Opera in 8 Time Use Episodes
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'In the public domain, "dwelling structure" is a phrase used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and other government agencies in connection with population and housing. It refers to "the physical structure of the individual dwelling ... as represented by a code".

"Dwelling Structure : An Opera in 8 Time Use Episodes" draws this involuted, impersonal language into co-incidence with fragments from the history of 157 Westbourne Grove in Northcote, Victoria. Composers Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey live and work at this address, behind the compact, white-painted façade of the Rechabite Hall, which was built in 1901. Together with artist Neil Thomas and writer Cynthia Troup, they have created a chamber opera in which the building itself—their family home— hauntingly takes the roles of lead vocalist, chorus, and orchestra. Abstractions of statistical reasoning are transformed into an aural architecture for the play of sensory attention and imagination. Perceptive listening yields intuitions about the building as a cosmos of worlds both human and natural: the worlds of its builders, past tenants, neighbours and present inhabitants; people and events who come to memory within its walls.

Located diagonally opposite the Northcote Town Hall on Ruckers Hill, and on the west corner of Eastment Street, the Northcote Rechabite Hall is a building of some historical repute, part of the long history of the temperance movement in Melbourne, and one of few remaining Rechabite halls in Victoria. Now perhaps best known for the charm of its tiny stage and proscenium arch, it was for many years a vibrant community meeting place, leased at times as a classroom, a gymnasium, and for church services.

Within the International Order of Rechabites, a separate "branch" is often called a "tent", since in the Hebrew bible, the clan descended from Rechab is associated with a nomadic lifestyle as well as abstinence from wine. In the early years of the twentieth century, the "Star of Northcote Tent 217" organised weekly temperance meetings in the Westbourne Grove hall, on Saturday nights. However, these premises must have been steadily outgrown. At the tent's centenary celebrations in 1976, its membership of 870 was described as 'the largest of any Tent anywhere in the world', and at one time members numbered 1,000. Tent meetings and rituals always opened with the formal singing of an "ode"; records of the social activities and celebrations organised by the Northcote Tent indicate that these included much singing and musical entertainment. "Dwelling Structure : An Opera in 8 Time Use Episodes" is illuminated by oddments from this communal past, which are woven into the spell of its enveloping counterpoint. Source: (Sighted 24/05/2011).

Production Details

  • World Melbourne premiere by Chamber Made Opera in a private living room in Northcote - Conformation of address on booking, Northcote, Victoria, 26-28 May 2011.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Works about this Work

At Home for Domestic Drama Bridget Cormack , 2011 single work column
— Appears in: The Australian , 23 May 2011; (p. 16)
At Home for Domestic Drama Bridget Cormack , 2011 single work column
— Appears in: The Australian , 23 May 2011; (p. 16)
Last amended 24 May 2011 09:35:49
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