Attending the world premiere of Victorian Opera’s latest show The Riders last night I had some reservations. Firstly, after over studying Tim Winton’s many works during primary and highschool I wouldn’t list myself as his biggest fan. This is of course not Mr Winton’s fault but more a fault of the WA Curriculum which at that time found an Australian author and stuck rigidly to his work. In one year I studied one of his short stories 3 times in different classes. THREE TIMES.
Secondly, my experience with opera is limited, probably the most out of all of the art forms of theatre, musical theatre, ballet, music etc. As much as I know there is more to opera than old, fat people singing in Latin, going into my first Victorian Opera show I still struggled to shake the stereotype.


Fortunately within about 30 seconds of the The Riders I knew I was in for a an excellent ride (ha). The synopsis is fairly simple – Scully is waiting for his wife, Jennifer, and daughter, Billie, to return from a holiday in Perth to their home in Ireland. But it’s only Billie that arrives at the airport leading Scully, with his daughter  in tow, to go on a desperate search through Europe to find his wife. At times a little strange and raising questions and ideas of lost love and hope I won’t give too much more away. I spent some time after the show discussing the characters and their journeys so if you do see the show, please let me know what you think!

The talent on and off stage was exceptional. The cast are talented far beyond anything I could hope to achieve and I’m in no position to comment on their vocal ability! The set design was simple, as expected in most contemporary theatre, but striking with use of a revolving stage to add movement, drama and fluidity between scenes.


At 1 hour 40 minutes the opera moves through the 3 acts efficiently and the lack of an intermission isn’t missed.

Walking out of The Riders I had lost all of my initial reservations. A refreshing interpretation of Tim Winton’s work the opera has even encouraged me to read his novel – my first Winton novel in nearly 10 years! – and of course any remaining stereotypes about opera are long gone. I even found myself fondly recognising Winton-ism’s in the lyrics (which are displayed as sub-titles throughout the show).

I’d highly, highly recommend this show for new and old opera fans. I’m always so encouraged to see strong talent coming out of Australia and with this show adapted by an Australian, based on work by an Australian author and starring Australians in an Australian company – you can’t get much more local than that.

The Riders
23 Sept – 4 Oct
Malthouse Theatre



  1. Ooooh Katie that sounds actually really good. The last opera I saw was in 2001. It was in Italian, with subtitles and while there were some amazing voices I got so caught up reading the subtitles I might as well have been reading a novel 🙂

    1. Haha! I was a bit worried about that but The Rider sub-titles are above the stage and not at all distracting. Also a fair few are Australian colloquialisms which gave the audience some laughs!

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