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May 27, 2021

Opera with a touch of true grime

Take your true crime with a side of dark laughs when Aussie opera ‘Love Burns’ hits Plant 4 in Bowden next week.

  • Pictures: Soda Street Productions

Getting out and having a laugh is as old as time, and comedy in operas has delighted audiences for centuries.


This article was produced in collaboration with State Opera South Australia.

Love Burns
3–6 June
Plant 4 Bowden
Bowden, Adelaide 5008

But in contemporary times, we tend to like our laughs delivered a little more laid back – the style you don’t associate with formal opera houses or the blue-rinse crowd.

None of that will be a problem when State Opera South Australia opens the darkly fun Aussie opera Love Burns, showing at Plant 4 in Bowden in early June.

Nick Cannon, the opera’s director, says they picked the former electronics factory and now artisanal hotspot to stage Love Burns, as it gives off the right “gritty industrial vibe that continues throughout the show and allows audiences to get closer to the action than a traditional theatre setting.”

Based on the true crime story of American serial killer couple Raymond Martinez Fernandez and Martha Jule Beck who are suspected to have killed up to 20 people during a spree between 1947 to 1949, Love Burns takes the premise and gives it a distinctly Aussie treatment in the hands of playwright Louis Nowra.

Like any good crime story, it’s best not to have any spoilers, just know that one character murders for love, one for money and you’ll figure out within the show’s 65 minutes if they get away with it or whether their honeymoon is cut short.

Cannon encourages punters to come early and grab a drink and a cheese platter before the show and then sit back and enjoy what he promises to be an intimate and funny relationship between the audience and the performers.

“It’s a very funny, quirky show that doesn’t take itself too seriously and we hope the audience doesn’t either,” says Nick.

“It’s opera with a touch of true grime.”

Nick is quick to point out that one of the things he rates about Love Burns is composer Graeme Koehne’s skill in weaving a wide range of musical influences together to tell the story of mid-century America and these two desperate misfits.

“It’s not all high notes and big finishes”, says Cannon. “Love Burns is gritty and funny and personable, but also romantic, vulnerable, and really very dark.” All told by some of the “top orchestral and singing performers in Australia”.

It is also an opportunity to see something you won’t see anywhere else. Love Burns has not been in Adelaide since its premiere at Adelaide Festival in 1992 and has only had a small handful of performances anywhere ever. This is precisely the type of Australian work championed in State Opera’s Lost Operas of Oz series, which will include The Tell-Tale Heart and Voss this year.

Stuart Maunder, Artistic Director of State Opera South Australia, says reviving classic operas is a passion and a necessity for any opera company. “We don’t shy away from the grand canon of operas – the Butterflys, Traviatas and Bohemes, but we also don’t shy away from the equally important challenge of producing Australian works of the 20th century.

“Every opera company wants to create new work of course, but in the push to create new work, we risk overlooking those Australian works that have already been painstakingly and beautifully made.

“Our credo is to get opera out there, to produce as much opera as we can, for as many people as we can. Under the banner of Lost Operas of Oz we are proud to be producing and reviving rarely seen Australian Operas, operas that deserve an audience,” he says.

Love Burns runs 3-6 June at Plant 4 Bowden, with tickets starting at $35 and the promise of a night at the opera, but not as you know it.

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