In 1985 State Opera of South Australia commissioned Ralph Middenway to write a one-act opera with librettist Andrew Taylor, poet and Emeritus Professor of English at Edith Cowan. Amalie Dietrich was a pioneer woman scientist, a largely self-taught naturalist who followed Leichhardt’s path through coastal Queensland, collecting and naming many new species of plants and animals. The story reviews her life, that of a very tough professional woman trying but unable to balance work and family.
Amalie is a dramatic soprano, her daughter Charitas a lyric mezzo.
A spinto tenor and a baritone cover two roles each.
The vocal lines are sometimes spiky, the harmonic idiom sometimes confronting, often a kind of expanded tonality.
The make-up of the modest-sized orchestra is unusual but not outlandish.
There is one open built set, representing several locations.
All the action takes place ‘in Charitas’s head’.
Dates were pencilled in but then State Opera fell into financial difficulties.
In 1988 the reorganised company workshopped two-thirds of the piece in its rehearsal studio. Belinda Matonti sang Amalie, Wendy Hopkins played Charitas. The men were Bill Bamford and John Greene. David Kram conducted it and blocked it out. The workshop was agreed a success. David suggested where some tweaking might be considered.
It hasn’t been revised for the composer was occupied with other projects. It has not been performed. The score is hand-written.