When Opera, Fairy Tale & Sign Language Come Together

7 November 2016

I recently had the great joy of attending and photographing the performance of El Kid by Opera Australia, which was endearing, funny and entertaining! The show was particularly special, however, as it included two Auslan Shadow Interpreters who formed part of the performance, which enabled Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and adults, to attend and enjoy it as well. This was possible due to collaboration between Opera Australia, Deaf Children Australia and Hand in Hand Collaborations.

Hand in Hand Collaborations Director Maxine Buxton said, “Opera Australia and Deaf Children Australia have enjoyed a strong collaboration for more than 10 years. Both have a commitment to making accessible and meaningful art for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and adults.

“We worked together to devise the interpreted performances using ‘shadow interpreters’ as opposed to the traditional ‘side-of-stage’ model. The interpreters are blocked into the show, working together with myself as Auslan coordinator, Director Liesel Badorrek and Auslan Coach Chris Dunn, who is Deaf himself.

“The rehearsal process for the shadow interpreters involves only three days with the cast plus an additional 20 hours for translating—it takes many hours of work to perfect the librettos!”

The journey to this integrated style started in 2009 with the first shadow-interpreted production, Sid the Serpent, featuring in 2010. Every year since then there have been shadow interpreted shows across Victoria with an expansion into New South Wales in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

It was so enjoyable watching the interaction and play between Auslan interpreters David Childs and Ilana Gelbart alongside the Opera Australia cast. They were certainly part of the whole performance and just as entertaining!

(Note: Though not present on the day, Emely McCord is another interpreter who has featured in some of the performances.)

As to the performance itself, Opera Australia’s website describes it as:

The classic tale of Billy Goats Gruff meets the popular music of Carmen in this opera/fairy-tale mash-up for school children. The party animals of Seville are off to the fiesta, but weird little Diego is left behind — no oddballs allowed. However, in a classic showdown of brains versus brawn, El Kid proves that fortune favours the bold and even the smallest of things can blossom into something fabulous. Designed to introduce young audiences to the wonder, passion and drama of opera, this 50-minute family opera explores the courage you find when you believe in yourself by reimagining the much-loved story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff and setting it to the glorious melodies of Bizet’s Carmen.

I definitely recommend going to see it! It’s on at the Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio from 22 – 27 November  2016. The show on Thursday 24 November at 1pm will feature the Auslan Shadow Interpreters. To book tickets for the Auslan show contact schools@artscentremelbourne.com.au or call 03 9281 8394.

More info can be found here.

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