A children’s opera for the Torres Strait Islander members of the Gondwana National Indigenous Children’s Choir & the Sydney Children’s Choir
Ngailu – Boy of the Stars is a delightful children’s opera about a young boy’s enchanted dreams of the stars and the sea. It is a story full of hope that celebrates the richness of Torres Strait Islander culture and realises the potential of talented young Australian singers – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – to work together to achieve a professional performance of artistic excellence.
The premiere performance of the children’s opera Ngailu – Boy of the Stars was the culmination of a two -year collaboration with the children of the Sydney Children’s Choir, part of the Gondwana Choirs organisation, and the children of the Torres Strait Islands, Queensland, Australia. The project has involved several stages and developed in tandem with the formation of the Gondwana Indigenous Children’s Choir.
Gondwana Choirs then commissioned Sani Townson, Torres Strait Islander dancer and choreographer, to create a children’s opera for performance by Torres Strait Island members of the Gondwana National Indigenous Children’s Choir and the Sydney Children’s Choir. Australian composer Dan Walker was commissioned to work with Sani and incorporate traditional and contemporary Torres Strait Islander songs into a musical score; and the young Torres Strait Islander visual artist Anthony Mayor was commissioned to create a striking visual backdrop for the work.
The critically acclaimed premiere performance of Ngailu – Boy of the Stars in Sydney in April 2009 was the final phase of the collaboration. Reviewer Murray Black, writing in The Australian newspaper, said of the premiere performance:
The performers’ sensitive approach and scrupulous preparation have paid ample dividends because Ngailu – Boy of the Stars was a stimulating cross-cultural collaboration… Although it contained a complex tapestry of music, text, movement and visual effects, it succeeded because everything served the storytelling.
Synopsis Ngailu – Boy of the Stars
Ngailu lives by the ocean and is fascinated by the stars. One particularly luminous night he asks them ‘Where is it you go when you fall from the sky?’ The stars enchant the young boy and take him away, over the horizon and under the sea. That very night, a fierce storm rises and washes his footprints from the sandy shore. The next day is clear and fresh. Kaidai [Ngailu’s mother] wakes and soon discovers her son is not in his bed. Imagining he has risen early to play with the other children in the village, she wanders amongst their games in search of him. She becomes more and more frantic as she learns Ngailu is nowhere to be found. Fearing the stars are to blame, she asks the moon if he has seen Ngailu. Moon is entranced by her beautiful voice and he reveals to Kaidai where the stars have taken her boy, dancing and playing under the waves. Ngailu and the stars play and dance with the turtles and the dugong, but soon he feels it is time to return home to his mother. Kaidai arrives and demands the stars release Ngailu. The stars are not ready to let him go however, and attempt to cast their spell on her. She will not be charmed by their song and forces them to return her son. Kaidai and Ngailu are finally reunited.