Cat on Speechless

In February 2019 Tura will be producing and presenting the 2019 Perth Festival World Premiere season of award-winning composer Cat Hope’s wordless opera, Speechless.

Speechless is a personal response to the 2014 Human Rights Commission report ‘The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention’. Through a vocal language beyond words, Speechless is a channel for Hope to come to terms with the things she sees perpetrated in her name by those in positions of power.

Cat says of the project that “this is a project that had a philosophical birth rather than a musical one… I wanted to put on the record the way I felt about certain things, and I realised that the grand form of opera was the only way for this philosophical thing to come in.”

“Speechless is a wordless opera, that is driven by thematic materials form the Human Rights Commissions children in detentions report that was tabled by Gillian Triggs in 2014. I think that was my year of realising that things were not quite right. Both when it came to women’s position or opportunities in Australia but also a feeling of disempowerment generated by some of the things that were happening in our government, particularly around asylum seekers and children in detention. I felt helpless in the face of these things – what could I offer as an experimental music composer? Some friends encouraged me to try and address my response through my work. The first attempt was After Julia (about Julia Gillard’s term in office), and Speechless was the next. Speechless is an hour long, and features four soloists, community choirs, and the Australian Bass Orchestra – an orchestra of instruments all playing below middle C.

My notation leaves some choices to the musicians, but strictly dictates other things to them. Whilst Speechless is my own personal response to this problem, I want to be clear that I’m not trying to speak on the behalf of anyone, so I’m really keen that the orchestra, the choir and the singers are a part of the process of the project, they have a quite a significant contribution to the makeup of this piece.

When people know what the work is about and have the context, it can be a very moving experience.

And like all opera, it deals with the big issues of our time. It’s a large form project with an opportunity to make something, I hope, significant to music more broadly.”


26 FEB – 3 MAR 2019
$25-$49 (+BF) TICKETS

Speechless features one of Australia’s finest interpreters of contemporary operatic repertoire Judith Dodsworth, lead singer of the Australian heavy metal powerhouse High Tension, Karina Utomo, Western Australian experimental vocalist Sage Pbbbt and Persian vocal trailblazer Tara Tiba, with a combined community choir of 30 voices, and the 30-piece multi-instrumental Australian Bass Orchestra.

This 2019 Perth Festival World Premiere season is designed specifically for the new Sunset Heritage Arts Precinct.

Find out more about Speechless and book tickets now from Perth Festival.

Production Partners
Perth Festival
Monash University