27 May, 2011 Last updated: 16 Dec, 2014

In 2010 Pecan Summer made Australian theatre history, bringing together for the first time, an Indigenous cast to perform Australia’s first Indigenous opera. The opera be performed again in Melbourne in September.

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In 2010 Pecan Summer made Australian theatre history, bringing together for the first time, an Indigenous cast to perform Australia’s first Indigenous opera.

Premiering ‘on-county’ at Mooroopna, near Shepparton, Victoria, in October 2010, Pecan Summer will now be performed at the Melbourne Arts Centre Playhouse, for 3 nights only – September 28, 29 and 30, 2011.

Once again joined by the wonderful cast of Australian Indigenous opera singers and other special guests, Australia’s internationally acclaimed Indigenous Opera Soprano, Deborah Cheetham will be achieving another ‘first’ for Indigenous people – the first Indigenous opera to be performed in Melbourne.

Pecan Summer, written and composed by Cheetham, shines the spotlight on an important, but largely unknown, piece of Australian history – the 1939 walk off Cummeragunja Mission, where 200 Aboriginal men, women and children crossed he Dhungala (Murray River) in defiance of their persecutors. The Opera tells of the consequences of this walk off – culminating with its final scene in Federation Square on Apology Day 2008.

“It was appropriate that we premiered Pecan Summer ‘on-country’, and the premier achieved huge recognition both nationally and internationally. As a consequence of that success, we are now performing the Opera in Melbourne in September, with further national and international performances being planned,” Cheetham said.

Pecan Summer’s Melbourne season is being supported by VicHealth’s Arts About Us program, which encourages dialogue about the harmful aspects of race-based discrimination and the benefits of cultural diversity.

VicHealth’s Acting CEO Associate Professor John Fitzgerald said the organisation is working to reduce race-based discrimination because of the effects it has on people’s health.

“Research shows race-based discrimination is linked to anxiety and depression, and also to physical conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure and even diabetes,” A/Prof Fitzgerald said.

“The arts provide a powerful platform for celebrating diversity and strengthening cultural understanding. Deborah’s opera adds an amazing story, unique performance and wonderful talent to our Arts About Us program.”

Deborah Cheetham welcomed VicHealth’s support, and said that the journey to research and write Pecan Summer had helped her personally find out about more about her own culture and Aboriginal heritage.

While researching the history of the walk-off, Cheetham discovered her own relatives were at Cummeragunja – including her uncle, country singer, and the face of Reconciliation Week for 2011, Jimmy Little.

“Performing Pecan Summer in Melbourne in September is another milestone for myself, my family and all Indigenous people.”

The success of Pecan Summer has also led Ms Cheetham to create Short Black Opera, a national not-for-profit opera company devoted to the development of Indigenous opera singers.

“I encourage people to book their tickets early, as we only have 3 nights of performances. Last year demand for tickets to the premier way outstripped the available tickets! We have also had around 10,000 hits on our website from people requesting information about when Pecan Summer will be performed again!

“Pecan Summer is an opera for the 21st century. I encourage all Australians to come along and share in this wonderful piece of Australian history!”

Tickets for Pecan Summer at The Arts Centre, Playhouse, are available now.
Bookings: 1300 182 183 or www.theartscentre.com.au