The last few months have been very busy preparing the piano score for use in the creative development of my latest commission from WA Ballet, The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. This piece began creative development (choreography with the very talented WA Ballet young artists) on January 13, 2020, and had its company showing for creatives and sponsors on February 10. Prior to this, I began story development with the choreographer Andries Weidemann in early November. After this first session reading May Gibbs’ 1918 work The Tales of Sungglepot and Cuddlepie, which is the first set of stories from the collected edition The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (2007) we refined story elements and chose our characters, jotting notes and scribbles on a whiteboard and forming a rough storyboard arc. I took away this storyboard arc, and reframed it into a word document very similar to the one I used in my opera development. We then both edited and refined as ideas progressed using the Word review comments sections.
Then we went away with our separate tasks. Whilst Andries worked on the narration, I began working on the piano score for use in the rehearsal period in January, firstly by developing several themes for characters and situations (see below). This first score was to be for a piano, with percussion indications for cues and clarity. I work with the piano firstly as it is the generally accepted mode of musical rehearsal in both ballet and opera companies, and as it is also the best way for me to write broad sketches of a work, to formulate easily melodies and their basic harmonies, and in this fashion it also allows you to work more speedily than if you were bogged down in the task of orchestration. What’s wonderful about this layered approach is that it’s much easier to make changes quickly, and at the end of the whole process, you have a completed rehearsal score that can be used again for subsequent productions.
Much along the lines of modern film music and Wagnerian leitmotif, I began developing a piano score by experimenting with lots of character themes and leitmotif devices. Most of these themes were developed with Andries’s developing adapted text, and greatly inspired by May Gibbs’ wonderful drawings of characters and situations. You can see the storyboard on my project board that was utilised in my study as I worked (see below).
Once we had a more definite story arc and a developing narration, I began to piece the ballet score together with connecting music, using the narration as a kind of skeleton framework. Andries and I would then have a meeting where I played him what I had been working on, and I took copious notes on what he wanted changed or developed. This had been an ongoing process of edit and refine, even as we have been choreographing, so the work is certainly still developing even today.
My next task will be to begin orchestration of the work which will be for wind quintet: Flute (piccolo), Clarinet (and bass clarinet), Oboe, Bassoon and French Horn, as well as pitched and unpitched percussion. The pitched percussion will include vibraphone, xylophone and glockenspiel, and the unpitched percussion will include temple blocks, castanets, guiro, bass drum, snare drum and triangle amongst others. Percussion is intended to be especially effective in complementing the pace of the work, adding dramatic effect and tension, and keeping the timbre of the overall score as varied and colourful as the original May Gibbs’ illustrations. I chose this instrumental combination due to the soloistic characteristics of the wind quintet, allowing for virtuosity and heightened characterisation through the differentiation between these instruments.
I have also written a cheeky overture, March of the Gumnuts as I loved the way the 2019 Peter and the Wolf production opened with all cast on stage dancing to the Prokofiev March Opus 99, Allegro. This overture was one Andries and the dancers ran out of time to choreograph for our showing, but I’m looking forward to orchestrating it, and its inclusion in the performance.
I want to thank WA Ballet, Andries Weidemann and all the dancers for their support and hard work, and I look forward to sharing the completed work with you all in the near future!
Project storyboard for use in studio for development of the ballet The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (Jayakumar, 2019)
Characterisation Solar System for characters from the ballet The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (Jayakumar, 2019). A valuable planning tool
Character themes from the piano rehearsal score for the ballet The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (Jayakumar, 2019)
Below is an expanded version of a paper presented at the Women in the Creative Arts conference in Canberra at ANU in 2017.
Children’s opera in the 21st century: the child-centred approach to writing
This chapter discusses the creative development of engaging story and character within a practice-led PhD research project involving the creation of an opera for children, Beyond the Wall, which premiered in workshop form at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts to two capacity audiences in December, 2017. The main research aim of this project was how the creative, theoretical and conceptual approach to children’s opera could be reconsidered, increasing its relevance, appeal and comprehension.
Relatable and engaging opera for children in Australia is scarce. Many misconceptions about classical vocal music prevail amongst children, with education programs lacking the breadth and scope to dispel them. The preponderance of school incursion adaptation shows and mash-ups favoured by major Australian opera companies deems that children’s opera as a distinct genre remains critically underdeveloped and undervalued, leaving little scope for engaging in meaningful ways with young audiences.
Due to the paucity of originally devised works in the children’s opera genre, and lack of scholarly discussion around methods utilised for opera creation in both adult and children’s opera genres, various interdisciplinary solutions needed to be found during the project to facilitate the creative process. One aspect of this methodology involved the development on an effective libretto or text, led by characters and concepts that were comprehensible, have the potential to challenge and delight and possess relevance for both young people and families.
Whilst discussing the importance of an emotive and age appropriate dramatic premise of the libretto, this chapter additionally outlines the creative evolution of engaging operatic characters from Beyond the Wall. This investigation of premise and utilisation of characterisation modelling revealed the broader application of several adapted screenwriting methods, including the investigation of concepts surrounding the understanding of effective operatic characterisation, construction of a detailed characterization solar system, utilisation of beatsheets and screen treatment processes.
A complex conceptual and theoretical framework, designed specifically around three key areas of relevance, appeal and comprehension, informed the story and characterisation modelling as it informed the broader work. Relevance, appeal and comprehension, along with the literature and theory they represent, will be discussed, as well as their combined role in bringing about the development of the child’s gaze or a child centred-approach to the creative process. Drawing upon these sources, this chapter broadly encompasses the development of innovative methodological tools and research strategies to assist in the process of developing more engaging works for children in the children’s opera genre and beyond.
Children’s opera in the 21st century: the child-centred approach to writing
Dr Emma Jayakumar
Opera is not generally a medium associated with children and the overwhelming majority of repertoire has, and remains, a genre intended for an audience of adults. Current approaches to children’s opera in Australia overwhelmingly involve the performance of adaptation formats: adult works that have been adapted for child audiences in predominantly two ways; either, the original story and format of one opera is abridged and translated into a version for children, or popular operatic excerpts are reworked in more of a pastiche mode of presentation, or what Opera Australia refers to in publicity as a mash-up. The first generally maintains the skeleton of original story and music, the second deviates from the story and imposes a new one, whilst maintaining the original music. This approach to children’s opera has been a long term one, rotating within a small selection of typically 5–10 adult operas in the repertoire, works such as Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Rossini’s La Cenerentola, or Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel. Although these operas are of considerable quality musically and dramatically, and contain many elements that appeal to children, this approach is rarely deviated from and therefore new works in the genre are rare. Adaptations and mash-ups are almost exclusively presented in school incursion shows involving only keyboard accompaniment, meaning that children rarely experience opera in-house at its most impressive musically, theatrically, orchestrally, and visually.
The 2018 practice-led PhD composition project Toward a more engaging operatic genre for children primarily concerned itself with the investigation of how to write a libretto, and compose the musical realisation of an opera for children—one more engaging than current Australian company approaches to young operatic audience repertoire. The conceptual and theoretical approach to planning and constructing the opera broadly encompassed and absorbed many varied viewpoints of adult professionals creating work for children—an approach highly innovative to children’s operatic repertoire composition. In this context, a viewpoint was understood not just as the perspective of the artist or producer concerned, but more importantly how they chose to view the audience of children for whom they were writing. These ways of viewing an audience of young people were seen to influence the entire writing process from inception through to the workshop performance of the children’s opera Beyond the Wall in December, 2017.
Seldom are children involved conceptually or otherwise in work created for them, and children’s participation in larger-scale more traditional highbrow theatrical events like opera, ballet or theatre, is necessarily mediated by adults. This presents an interesting dichotomy from a creative viewpoint. Adult artists, producers, directors, or composers who create work for a children’s audience, necessarily do so from their own perspectives. These perspectives toward the creative work generally involve a dependence on observable positive feedback. This would include child audience reactions from performances (or likewise from demonstrable book sales, high box office yield, or television ratings) but also generally involves a reliance on memory; the experience of their own childhoods, tastes and understandings contextualised in many ways by the meaning-making that age and maturity enables. As writer and historian Jacqueline Rose articulates however, this “impossible relationship between adult and child... [where] the adult comes first (author, maker, giver) and the child comes after (reader, product, receiver)” dictates that the creative development of work for children retains an inexorable disparity between creator and receiver. There are many instances where this disproportion between creator and receiver has not been a hinderance, for example, producing successful work from individuals like Steven Spielberg, J.K. Rowling, Roald Dahl, Disney and DreamWorks animation producers—to name but a few. In the case of current practice in producing effective and engaging work for child audiences of opera in Australia however, the lack of resonance with audiences of children to work produced by adults, is far more evident.
The PhD research therefore presented a genuine challenge: How does an adult composer write opera for children? And how do they write an opera for children really well, avoiding what children’s theatre director, Jeanne Klein, refers to as overly mediated and kitschy works utilising “old, worn-out, formulaic conventions that appeal primarily to excessively sentimental or melodramatic emotions”? How would my ways of seeing children influence what I wrote; can we as adults write from perspectives not our own?
First steps—An interdisciplinary approach
The hybrid organism of opera is composed of many seemingly disparate components, requiring creative fluency in theatrical, musical and textual realms in order to produce a successful outcome. In this sense it is one of the most easily recognisable examples of an interdisciplinary artform. As composer Paul Barker reflects, “the composer engaged in writing for the voice is inevitably confronting extra-musical issues, challenging a comprehension of the network of interdisciplinary areas”. Ultimately, I was prompted by the interdisciplinary nature of the art form of opera to use an interdisciplinary approach to research; and I identified a practice-led research methodology as the most appropriate fit for my interdisciplinary needs.
Visual artist and practice-led research pioneer Carole Gray, defines practice led research as:
By ‘practice-led’ I mean, firstly, research which is initiated in practice, where questions, problems, challenges are identified and formed by the needs of practice and practitioners; and secondly, that the research strategy is carried out through practice, using predominantly methodologies and specific methods familiar to us as practitioners. (1996, p. 3)
This seminal quotation is oft-repeated by practice-led research (PLR) scholars, and immediately enabled a personal sense of ease within a methodological framework formed by individual and specialised needs, as identified through the demands of practice.
First Steps—A Conceptual and Theoretical Framework
At initial stages, various sources of secondary literature research were collated, prompted primarily by personal experiences performing for and creating work for children, including successes and failures, along with questions regarding what may have motivated both. I began researching sociological literature surrounding both young people and adults’ interaction with so-called high art forms; compiled lists and tables of the main unifying features of successful children’s literature, film and television models; I noted possible negative stylistic issues presented to young audiences from lack of exposure to classical music/operatic voices; and I researched possible musical neuro-processing and comprehension differences between adult and child audiences. Many of these areas overlapped both theoretically and conceptually, also pointing to additional interesting and highly relevant sources of secondary literature and practice regarding work for children, for instance, a wealth of information from Theatre for Young Audience (TYA) researchers and practitioners, and additional child-specific sociological literature was added. I collated this information with the aim of formulating a robust conceptual and theoretical framework to guide my practice and research aims.
I noticed as research progressed in these child focused areas, four particular key concepts of influence to the conceptual and theoretical framework kept emerging:
1.Worthiness—the concept that children are worthy of specialised and quality approaches to their repertoire, and are audiences of the present, not just adult audiences in waiting. Child audiences are different than adult audiences, not inadequate.
2.Arts going habitus—a concept acknowledging the vital importance of key members of a child’s family or social circle, their facilitation of attendance, and lasting influence on the formation of arts attendance habits. This particularly influenced the mode of presentation (creation of family works in a theatrical venue, as opposed to solely school incursions) of the creative work.
3.Scaffolding—methods that may be employed by older creators to assist in a child’s greater comprehension of story, themes and musical styles as commensurate with their developmental level
4.A child’s perspective—the importance of identifying age appropriate and relevant dramatic themes and concepts for the more tailored creation of meaningful children’s work
The conceptual and theoretical framework was vital in consolidating these four recurring child-centred concepts, and in presenting “graphically or in narrative form, the main things to be studied—the key factors, concepts, or variables—and the presumed relationships among them”. The framework was constructed placing an intersecting Venn diagram (or overlapping circular shapes, illustrating commonalities between sets of information) of secondary literature research and practice into broad areas of Relevance, Appeal and Comprehension for children. These three areas were defined in reference to developing a more holistic approach to the Opera Organism (see figure 1), and by referencing reviewed TYA literature and practice, culminating in the formation of a child’s gaze at its centre. Visualising this cluster of information as the nucleus of a cell, the surrounding areas then represented the cell itself, indicating the constant ebb and flow of creative process, its influences, and various functions performed. The remainder of the opera organism represented the creative component (in grey) which was directly informed by the child’s gaze nucleus. The broader circle indicated methodology, including adapted methods, skill set and existing embodied knowledge of performance and operatic conventions and style.
The Opera Organism as a conceptual and theoretical framework became an essential tool in what would become the interpretation and adaptation (in an operatic composition context) of American children’s theatre director and scholar, Jeanne Klein’s, child’s gaze. Klein defines the child’s gaze as distinct child-centred approaches to children’s work, as opposed to adult gazes of what “adults perceive or think children will or should know, enjoy and appreciate”. Klein argues further that by “knowing how young audiences construct theatrical reality from their developmental perceptions, artists may create theatre more conducive to the ‘child gaze’ and keep children coming back for more”. It was an apt summation of what I had been trying to achieve in drawing together so much child-focussed research and practice, and became a vital reference tool in the goal to create a meaningful and engaging piece for a child audience.
Figure 1 ”The Opera Organism”, Conceptual and Theoretical Framework.
Libretto development—dramatic premise
Professional American librettist Terry Quinn, playwright Lajos Egri, and screenwriters Robert McKee and Blake Snyder, all concur that a strong dramatic premise is key to the success of an engaging dramatic work. The dramatic premise of Beyond the Wall in order to be effective however, had to strongly resonate with children. It was at this point I recalled musicologist Paul Robinson’s statements regarding opera’s great strengths as a medium, particularly what he referred to as opera’s ability to “respond most vigorously to ideas that might broadly be called psychological”.  These ideas provided a mini-epiphany for me in the development of Beyond the Wall’s dramatic premise, which had to be grounded in a child’s psychological territory, not in an adult’s operatic world full of themes about love, lust, existential crises, sex and death, as examples. I drew inspiration from TYA scholars Jed Davis’ and Mary Evans’s discussion of Freudian–influenced ideas, regarding what they viewed as a child’s greatest fear: separation. Davis and Evans state that for children, “the ultimate joy is to be reunited or not be deserted. Fear of imaginary creatures or even a fear of the dark may be traced to a more basic fear of separation from the loved parent”. Looking to successful children’s film and literature models, the centrality of the child protagonist’s familial, particularly parental relationships, was undeniable. This emotive theme is frequently a potent and motivating force in the child protagonist’s universe, and also central to the adult characters or parents involved.
In the resulting Beyond the Wall libretto, orphaned child characters of Evie (age 12) and Dash (age 6) became the main protagonists; siblings who were ultimately reunited with their family (their Grandfather) at the opera’s climax. This scenario presented a dual focus on the emotive themes of loss of family/separation and reunion, both within the characterisation models, and the overall plot.
Libretto development—understanding operatic character
Writer and historian Gary Schmidgall’s idea that “the world of opera is one of high relief, magnification, escalation” influenced the decision to develop a story that satisfied characterisation models of the extravagant or magical. Drawing from the comedy inherent to caricatures of opera singers, performers in Beyond the Wall were required to willingly embrace some ridiculousness, using their powerful range and virtuosity to illuminate magical and comical situations, thereby acting as antidotes to what music historian Donald Grout describes as the “unnatural or even ridiculous” conventions of opera. Notwithstanding the comic relief brought about by more light-hearted elements of the opera’s storyline, there was an equally strong aim for the piece to contain thematic material that evoked profound emotional reactions from the audience. Such a reaction would not only be achieved through their empathy for characters, but also in their identification with the basic psychological dramatic premise of the storyline.
Music theatre professionals, Allen Cohen and Steven L Rosenhaus recommend that writers find or create “stories that contain and evoke strong emotion, serious or humorous, [as they] are more suitable for musicalization than those that do not”,  adding:
First the emotions must be strong enough that it feels appropriate for the characters to sing…the second requirement is that the story must contain enough emotional content for an audience to care about the characters and be willing to follow them to the end.
In addition to opera and music drama’s connection to strong emotion, there has been much scholarly discussion regarding the nature of the most successful and impactful operas, with a general consensus that, broadly speaking they are not too heavily grounded in realism and do not feature overly complex discourse. Schmidgall posits that “one can often say of seemingly un-operatic literary works that theirs is a theatre of words, whereas opera requires a theatre of action, emotion, engagement, movement and spectacle” This statement, along with Schmidgall’s visualisation of the characteristics of opera made in response to the question: what is operatic? were very influential to the creative development. In Schmidgall’s model, a journey is plotted from speech level upward through various vocalisations that rise in physical and technical difficulty. This progression is compared to a movement through rising emotional intensity. From speech level to heightened inflection to Sprechstimme, to unaccompanied and accompanied recitative, to arioso, aria and then to coloratura and high notes—these are deemed to be the most intense, the most emotional, the most far removed from realistic, and therefore, operatic.
Replicating Schmidgall’s structure, I made notes as to how Beyond the Wall’s characterisation and storyline may provide textual moments that were, “lyric or explosive or hyperbolic—which permit them to rise to an operatic occasion…for music seeks emotions, characters and situations suitable to amplification”. Schmidgall argues that the “advantage of this is an increased clarity of intention and a larger than life motive force in the presentation of human action”. In particular, it was a revelation to plot the main protagonist’s development from a speaking character to one who progresses to singing as the emotional intensity of the drama increases. On the right-hand side of the diagram in figure 2 are the characters of the Elements (including the Birdwoman, Gardener, Fisherman and Fireworm) and the Creatures (including the Fowl, Feline, Frogmouth and Frillneck) along with the various singing styles their parts utilise in the drama. On the left is the main protagonist (Evie’s) journey. An attempt to utilise different singing styles aimed to show some more typically operatic and escalated singing styles (like arias with dramatic high notes), whilst integrating the more conversational, playful and comic elements that Sprechstimme and recitative can convey. As the full-voiced operatic singing style is not one children are exposed to regularly, it was intended that this variation, and the main child protagonist’s personal journey through it, was a way to scaffold children’s understanding and exposure to a more alien sound world, providing a means to assist in their understanding and interpretation of the score and libretto.
Figure 2 The Operatic Characterisation Journey. Model developed from Gary Schmidgall's investigating ‘what is operatic?’ including Beyond The Wall characterisation journey.
Schmidgall’s model assisted in a more complete understanding of the most effective operatic characterisation features, at least on an operatic vocal level, and when this knowledge was combined with screenwriting characterisation modelling from Robert McKee’s StoryI was able to realise a more varied and dramatically interesting characterisation for the piece.
As Robert McKee stipulates:
In essence the protagonist creates the rest of the cast…imagine a cast as a kind of solar system with the protagonist as the sun, bit players as satellites around the planets—all held in orbit by the gravitational pull of the star at the centre, each pulling at the tides of each other’s natures. (1997, p. 379)
I utilised McKee’s solar system idea and initially rather dry visual representation and produced an adapted Characterisation Solar System (figure 3) that also made allowance for the sonic world/compositional style that influenced the other characters’ music. This characterisation modelling was a valuable process in augmenting multiple dimensions to Evie’s character. It also aimed to avoid excess character repetition and increased the impact that the forces of antagonism have on the storyline.
Figure 3 Characterisation Solar System for Beyond the Wall
The development of both Operatic Characterisation Journey and Characterisation Solar System models, were just a few of many other methodological tools developed in the overall project, and were valuable devices for planning and sketching out both character and story possibilities. Preceded by early planning stages utilising multiple storyboards, beatsheets and screen treatment processes (figures 4,5 and 6) adapted primarily from film and screenwriting sources, these character models assisted in the manifold edit and refine processes familiar to artists during creative development.
Figure 4 Storyboard (final) for Beyond the Wall
Figure 5 Storyboard for libretto beats adapted from Blake Snyder's Beatsheet/Board approaches to screenplay formation
Figure 6 Beatsheet for Beyond the Wall displaying influence of Snyderand McKee's  approaches
The characterisation solar system itself had many drafts, and by utilising various opposing perspectives (for example opposing areas of the diagram indicating dramatic opposition; emotive colours such as reds for warmth or goodness, and blues for coldness and adversity), I was able to tease out as many interesting and varied possibilities for the characters with relative ease. This was additionally valuable in it identified and highlighted problems as they emerged.
For example, in an early version of the libretto and characterisation modelling, the character of the Birdwoman began as a rather benevolent figure, presented positively in her opening aria, sketched roughly as featuring brilliant cascading scales and coloratura passages in C major. However, midway through the second draft of the libretto-writing process, there was a huge plummet in dramatic tension in the second half at Beatsheet (plotting of individual scenes) stage. I referenced the design briefs and character models, and identified the need for a much stronger secondary force of antagonism—in other words, a villain. My primary villain, the Fireworm, was—up until that point—intended to be a villainous and caustic obstruction to the protagonist. However, as I was writing with a particular performer in mind, his character had begun to develop a very distinctive and sarcastic dry humour, which was highly appealing and played to the performer’s strengths. This pleasing development unfortunately diluted his real effectiveness as a true bad guy. As a result, the Birdwoman’s character was altered to become the true villain. Revealing a twist in characterisation proving more effective for the audience, the mirroring of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte Queen of the Night character development was entirely coincidental, but on reflection rather serendipitous. When this dramatic change was made, a deliberate emulation was then made of the Queen of the Night’s thrilling Der Holle Rache aria in D minor, presenting both musically and dramatically a more multi-dimensional character than was first anticipated.
As was initially predicted due to the scale of complexity of this project, this study inspired more questions than it essentially answered. Primarily these questions centred around perceptions of success of the final work, and ways that the aim of the central research question pertaining to more effective engagement of child audiences could be more formally or quantitatively measured. I perceived—both from performance and audience observation perspectives—that the work was indeed very engaging and thus the primary aims of the project were successful. Success, however must perhaps be measured in multiple ways; not just in terms of artistic quality and audience engagement, but additionally in terms of box office return, and this can only be obtained through professional production and formal reception studies.
However, from the point of view of the value inherent in the methods developed and adapted in my PhD project, I have had recent firsthand experience of their continued effectiveness when I reapplied several methods to the development of the initial piano score for the ballet commission The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, for West Australian Ballet’s 2020 season. Set to an adapted narrative based on May Gibbs’ The Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, work began on the first stages of this score (for piano) with just two months until creative development of the work (choreography with young artists) in mid-January 2020. In what I view as the success and effectiveness of many of these adapted composition and writing methods discussed in this chapter, I reutilised my storyboard and characterisation solar system in the development of the initial score, and found them to be vital tools of both planning and communication with my collaborator, the choreographer Andries Weidemann, who adapted the majority of the narrator’s text. These methods also assisted greatly in the clarity and efficiency of the compositional process, helping me to work speedily whilst allowing easily for multiple points of revision. The initial workshop showing of this creative development in February 2020 was very warmly and enthusiastically received by all sponsors and members of the company present, and plans are underway for formal reception studies to be performed of the scheduled 5 performance run in September, 2020.
Figure 7 Characterisation Solar System for 2020 commission The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie
Figure 8 Storyboard for The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (for use in studio)
 Opera Australia, "What’s on – El Kid," https://opera.org.au/whatson/events/el-kid.,(accessed 10 April, 2018).
 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Die Zauberflöte ([Singspiel in two acts]1791).
 Gioachino Rossini, La Cenerentola ([Opera in two acts]1817).
 Engelbert Humperdinck, Hänsel Und Gretel ([Opera in three acts]1893).
 Emma Jayakumar, "Toward a More Engaging Operatic Genre for Children" (Creative work/exegesis, Edith Cowan University 2018).
 Beyond the Wall ([Children’s opera performance] Perth, Australia: Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University, 2017).
 Jacqueline Rose, "The Case of Peter Pan," in The Children’s Culture Reader (New York: New York University Press 1998), 58.
 Jeanne Klein and Shifra Schonmann, "Questioning Kitsch and the Myth of Future Theatre Audiences," in Second International TYA Research Network Forum at the ASSITEJ International Congress and Festival (Malmö, Sweden 2011), 2.
 Paul Barker, Composing for Voice: A Guide for Composers, Singers, and Teachers (New York: Routledge, 2014), 169.
 Lyndall Adams, "The Indeterminate Precision of Narrative" (Doctoral thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia, 2008); Brad Haseman, "A Manifesto for Performative Research," Media International Australia incorporating culture and policy 118, no. 1 (2006); David Raymond Fenton, "Unstable Acts: A Practitioner's Case Study of the Poetics of Postdramatic Theatre and Intermediality" (Doctoral thesis, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, 2007); Graeme Sullivan, Art Practice as Research: Inquiry in Visual Arts(Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2010).
 Matthew B Miles and A Michael Huberman, Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1994), 18.
 Jeanne Klein, "Applying Research to Artistic Practices: This Is Not a Pipe Dream," Youth Theatre Journal 7 (1993).
 Ibid., 13.
 Terry Quinn to On the art of libretto writing, 2009, http://www.terryquinn.com/libretto_writing.htm; Lajos Egri, The Art of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972); Robert McKee, Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting (New York: Harper Collins, 1997); Blake Snyder, Save the Cat!:The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need (Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions, 2005).
 Paul A. Robinson, Opera & Ideas: From Mozart to Strauss (New York: Cornell University Press, 1986), 263.
 Jed Horace Davis and Mary Jane Evans, Theatre, Children and Youth (New Orleans: Anchorage Press, 1987).
 Ibid., 55.
 Gary Schmidgall, Literature as Opera (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 10.
 Donald Jay Grout and Hermine Weigel Williams, A Short History of Opera (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), ii.
 Allen Laurence Cohen and Steven L Rosenhaus, Writing Musical Theater (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006), 18.
 Sandra Corse, Opera and the Uses of Language: Mozart, Verdi, and Britten (Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1987); Joseph Kerman, Opera as Drama (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988); Ulrich Weisstein, "The Libretto as Literature," in Word and Music Studies: Selected Essays on Opera, ed. Walter Bernhart (New York: Rodopi, 2006).
 Schmidgall, Literature as Opera, 14.
 Ibid., 11.
 McKee, Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting.
 McKee’s own more general visual model for cast design is contained in ibid., 380.
 Snyder, Save the Cat!:The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need.
 McKee, Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting, 410–17.
 Mozart, Die Zauberflöte.
 May Gibbs, The Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1918).
Struggling with the multiplicity of stage directions, instrumental and musical directions (primarily for my own reference at this composition stage, those things can be removed later) recitative and dialogue (and spoken dialogue which is minimal) within the libretto, I feel it starting to get a little messy and confusing. I have a rough format, but went looking for more rigid guidelines in this area. As has been the case in many other respects of libretto study, literature is scarce. There does not seem to be an industry standard in the area of formatting for an operatic script or libretto, just as there doesn’t seem to be an industry standard when it comes to choice of notational software, or formatting within that program either. I tried and failed to love Finale (notational software), a decision that was vastly influenced when a more senior compositional colleague of mine told me very confidently that it was the “industry standard”; this statement has since been refuted by many other practising composers who all told me that there isn’t really an industry standard as long as the score is legible and consistent. I made the executive decision to go back to Sibelius (which I understand and use with greater speed and accuracy), and determined that consistency was the key.
I have referred many times to the Ricordi editions of Verdi and Puccini operas, as well as the Bärenreiter editions of Mozart opera scores (to be clear, the Piano/vocal scores or Klavierauszug) when needing to reference issues of spacing, legibility and movement between scenes, right down to the size of the stave, the page turns for the pianist (be kind to pianists!) and singers alike. Again, there are vast differences between the format and presentation of dialogue (if any) in these scores. Of course there isn’t any dialogue in the more through composed Verdi/Puccini operas, but there is quite a lot in the singspiel of Mozart. In these scores the editions contain 2 languages, compounding the layout of the scores. I don’t have this problem (yet!) but imagine if I ever needed to present my score in another language that I would need to decide on an approach to presenting this. Both scores present the principle language underneath the stave for that singer, with an italicised translation in a second language directly underneath. In the contents Bärenreiter presents the two languages with greatest clarity (in my opinion), presenting them side by side but separated by a column and with lines to page numbers. The Ricordi manner I believe is less effective in combining everything into one scene and one index entry. I am willing to concede that this is a personal preference of mine however. The dialogue also in the Bärenreiter is presented in this bi-columned, compact manner. I think it assists greatly in the clarity of presentation.
I have a hunch that similar issues apply to the formatting of the libretto (ie, what is the industry standard, if any), but have been aided greatly by some wise and informed opinions regarding compositional and creative writing best practice in both areas.
I decided to look further afield outside of more academic literature and more toward other composers' and a librettist’s accounts of best practice in this area and uncovered some really helpful tips via blogposts. Again, with no great surprise it was difficult to find a lot of opera specific information in this area, and a hundred different ways to present a libretto across the huge lifespan of the operatic repertoire, so I focussed on the related musical theatre area. Although the focus in musical theatre is the differentiation in the script between dialogue and sung text (generally a 50/50 scenario) I feel that this is analogous to the recitative/aria format in terms of the necessary division of text on the page so not a huge problem to adapt.
Kieran MacMillan (primarily involved in musical theatre libretti) advocates a very sensible approach recommending a departure from one of the more consistent elements of a musical theatre script, mainly the Caps all approach to differentiation between dialogue and SINGING. He notes that
Putting aside the well-known fact that text set in all uppercase is more difficult to read than text set in sentence case, in the 21st Century we have the added drawback that all-caps is the typographical equivalent of shouting (MacMillan, 2014).
MacMillan laments the fact that there has long been an Industry standard for cinematic scripts (right down to a specified font) however there still seems to be lack of definitive agreement in this area for musical theatre scripts. I note that this is the case also for libretti it seems. For instance, the Larder hub for musical theatre writing (Toksvig & Hartmann, 2013) still advocates the Caps all approach to sung sections, with character names centred above dialogue and lyrics (I find this most confusing to read as a performer) but does has some helpful tips such as
Title your scenes so director, designer and actors can clearly see where everything takes place.
Make stage directions italicized and indented, so it’s clear that they are stage directions.
Use separate paragraphs to make them as clear as possible.
Make sure you leave wide margins for people to make notes in as they work on your piece. (Toksvig & Hartmann, 2013)
MacMillan (2014) specifies his own approach to this, an approach I find preferable to the caps all sung sections with centred text in his examples script the “spoken dialogue is flush-left and the sung lyrics are centred” and he also argues
By setting the song title in bold underlined uppercase, and the stage directions in flush-left lowercase italics, those two types of information have their own distinctive look and feel, which encourages faster scanning, interpretation, and comprehension by the reader. And by explicitly stating the character’s name, in bold uppercase, to the left of spoken dialogue and centred above sung lyrics, the speaker/singer is always clear to the reader (MacMillan, 2014 para 8)
He provides some pages from his own work, which was immensely helpful.
Finally, MacMillan makes some excellent points regarding the necessity of an industry standard in this area. He argues that having an industry standard format would achieve several things. For writers the content is the main focus, not the presentation, for producers the standard format aids in the identification of a well informed and experienced writer as well as affording an accurate estimation of duration of a show based on a page count scenario. Finally for actors and directors a “a standard format provides a consistent and comfortable way of parsing out relevant information from the script, as efficiently as possible” (2014 para 9).
All good tips, however without an industry standard so far, I feel it is important to really seek clarity in your format and most importantly, be consistent.
MacMillan, K. (2014). The Perfect (?) Musical Libretto Format. Retrieved from http://kierenmacmillan.info/perfect-musical-libretto-format/
Toksvig, J., & Hartmann, R. (2013). How To Format Your Script. Retrieved from http://anothernibble.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/how-to-format-your-script.html
Finding the issue of notation rather difficult I decided that it was perhaps best to get away from the stave and experiment with some graphic notation, and ask various colleagues of mine to have a go at a dialogue section of the in progress score. The sprechstimme part ended up looking a little like this
I asked four people (two opera singers, a repetiteur and our recording engineer - also a singer I might add) to lend me their own interpretation of the graphic score (without having seen it at all for study beforehand). The results were very amusing, and I was delighted with the interpretations. I decided to integrate more elements of this improvisatory element in the score, looking to harness the creativity of my fellow singers as well as appreciating that all singers are different, and that is creatively immensely exciting at times! Thanks Paull, Tommaso, Troy and Ileana. I look forward to much more with you!!
I was enormously lucky over the past 4 weeks to be able to record some excerpts of the first draft of my piano score for Beyond the Wall (working title), my new children's opera project as part of my practice-led PhD at WAAPA. Many thanks to Troy and Tommaso for your recording prowess, and for my beautiful singer friends who gave up their time to participate in my research project.
Features of the vocal work so far are an emphasis on free and experimental vocal ornaments and character noises, as well as clear and emotive themes for characters and places/plot lines.
Any volunteers? Must be up to performing some crazy stuff btw.
Have a listen and let me know what you think...
Thank you a thousand times guys, it is so massively gratifying to hear my work (also away from the horrible MIDI playback!)