The Young Kabbarli

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The Young Kabbarli is a one-act chamber opera written in 1964 by the Australian composer Margaret Sutherland; it is her only work in the operatic genre. The libretto was by Maie Casey, based on poetry by Judith Wright and Shaw Neilson.[1]

The plot is based on an episode in the life of the Irish-Australian welfare worker and anthropologist Daisy Bates. Bates was given the affectionate name 'Kabbarli', meaning 'grandmotherly person'.[2]

The Young Kabbarli has four singing roles (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, bass) and three non-singing roles.

It is scored for 2 flutes, 2 clarinets, bassoon, horn, percussion (castanets, wood block, sticks, flints, wooden shaker), piano, viola, and double bass.[3]

The Young Kabbarli was premiered in August 1965 at the Festival of Contemporary Opera and Music, at the Theatre Royal in Hobart,[4] as a companion piece to Larry Sitsky's The Fall of the House of Usher. Sitsky's piece was well-received, Sutherland's less so.[5][6]

It received performances by the State Opera of South Australia in Adelaide and in Melbourne in 1972.[4]

The Young Kabbarli was recorded in 1973 at Flinders University, Adelaide. It was the first Australian opera recorded in Australia,[7] and it was the first quadraphonic disc made in Australia.[8] The singers were Genty Stevens, mezzo-soprano, Daisy Bates/Kabbarli; Dean Patterson, baritone, Goondowell; Carol Kohler, soprano, Goondowell's wife Yoolbian;[9] John McKenzie, bass-baritone, Trappist Brother; David Gulpilil (as David Gumpilil), Aboriginal singer; New Opera of South Australia, conducted by Patrick Thomas.[10][11][12]

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