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Michael Hannan

Tragic opera in one act by James Penberthy to a libretto bv Mary Durack after her novel Keep him my Country; Perth, Australia, Somerville Auditorium, 22 January 1959.

Dalgerie (soprano), an aboriginal woman with leprosy, waits to see her former white lover and employer, Stan (baritone), before she dies. There is a series of flashbacks to the events leading to the present. Because a marriage between Dalgerie and Stan is forbidden by tribal law, she performs love magic to ensure that ‘though they may be parted in life, their spirits can be united in death’. Dalgerie resists tribal love rituals (played by a band of aborigines) and Stan tries to take her away from them, but she realizes that she now belongs to Julunggal, the snake. Dalgerie leaves the district and spreads a rumour that she has died. In their final meeting she reassures Stan that they will be reunited, and then dies in his arms. Penberthy’s score makes use of driving rhythmic and melodic ideas from aboriginal music, combined with his own romantic idiom that he feels is a response to the mystical and melancholic qualities of the Australian landscape. ...