By Abbey Wheeler

I should probably preface this review with a disclaimer that I’ve never been to the opera before; when it comes to classical music, I am a complete noob. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my lack of musical knowledge certainly didn’t stop me from enjoying this show by the West Australian Opera.

Sung entirely in Noongar language, Wundig Wer Wilura is a tale of a forbidden love between two cousins (Wundig and Wilura), and the fallout their love creates. Unable to receive their families’ blessings, as they are both already betrothed, Wundig and Wilura’s love sparks fighting amongst the two families. The Mubarn (Clever Man) is forced to intervene to stop the violence and banishes Wundig’s spirit to Wallwalling (Place of Tears) and Wilura’s spirit to Wongborel (Sleeping Woman).

The story is set in my hometown of York, Western Australia, on the land of the Balladong people. So, I found it particularly enlightening to hear the creation stories of Wallwalling and Wongborel, which are now known more commonly as Mount Bakewell and Mount Brown.

The entire cast was fantastic and the two leads, Jess Hitchcock and Jarred Wall, carried their performances brilliantly. The show managed to strike a satisfying balance of dramatic and light-hearted, with Wilura’s Nanna (Della Rae Morrison) providing a crowd favourite song about flirting and fertility.

I was also particularly impressed with the set design which featured giant rotating rocks and a series of moving screens showcasing scenes from the natural environment. The English translations of the songs appeared on screens to the sides of the stage, so the audience was never left confused by what was going on. However, better placement of these screens might have made the experience a bit more immersive, as it was somewhat disjointed swivelling between the screen and the stage.

I certainly wasn’t alone in my enjoyment of the show, as it received a standing ovation at the final curtain call ­­- a fitting tribute for this ancient story.

4/5 Pelicans.

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