An important and brilliant new work in the opera repertoire was given its world premiere at Blackheath Halls last night. Banished, composed by Stephen McNeff with a moving and sometimes witty libretto by Olivia Fuchs, tells the story of the 10,000 women who were transported to Australia for petty crimes two centuries ago. And crucially it puts these courageous, defiant and resilient women centre-stage, which was one of McNeff’s major aims because, as he said at the press conference to launch the work back in the spring, “female characters in opera are too often sad, mad or bad”. The work was commissioned by Trinity Laban, whose students provided the fabulous cast and orchestra. The six women soloists – sopranos Rebekah  Smith, Lucy Bray, Katy Huntley and Susanna Buckle and mezzos Rebecca Leggett and Emily Gray – were particularly good and helped turn a fine opera into a great one.


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