Senior Lecturer in Music Dr Donna Hewitt teamed up with fellow lecturer Dr Paul Smith and his Blush Opera Company to undertake a two week residency at the Joan Sutherland Centre in February 4th -9th. The proposal was selected following an open and highly competitive callout for artists and groups of artists passionate about Western Sydney’s creative culture. Q Theatre selected five artists-in-residence for the Q Lab ’19 Residency program. The recipients were provided with financial assistance and space as well as technical and dramaturgical support for creative development.

The proposal put forth by Hewitt and Smith was to develop an electronic operatic performance work for two performers with a working title, “The Digital Marionette”. This piece explores the dominant themes of puppetry and specifically the notion of control and interactions with the body and projection of the voice. The world of puppetry involves a complex hierarchy for the performers and also challenges audiences to consider who is causing what actions to happen as in a traditional puppet show.

The relationship between the puppet and the puppeteer is always a kind of weird dance. One puppeteer, Neville Tranter, who has been working with his puppet for 35 years, says his work has been an experiment with the relationship between him and his puppet.

“It all has to do with power,” Neville said, “and who is the boss. Sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s the puppet.”

The aim of the artists is to draw together the media of electronic music, and opera performance practice to consider how the musical and overlap can be structured in relation to the concept of puppetry.

The artists utilised wearable gestural controllers, built by Hewitt, opening up a modern paradigm for the concept of the puppet, where the data from the movement of the bodies can be used in many ways to control the elements in the performance. The performers can control each other, their voice and the production of the sound and other media elements.

The team were joined by Blush Opera singer Jermaine  Chau and dancer and theatre maker Cloé Fournier who became the puppet/digital marionette during the project development.