Image: Zan Wimberley

The Howling Girls

Sydney Chamber Opera

“In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre…five gaunt teenage girls arrived separately at a Manhattan hospital complaining of identical symptoms. They were wasting away because they couldn’t ‘swallow’… All five believed that some debris or body part from the towers had lodged in their throats.”- Susan Faludi, The Terror Dream


Created by composer Damien Ricketson and director Adena Jacobs, The Howling Girls explores the medium and metaphor of the voice. A solitary soprano and throbbing chorus of young voices, together with an immersive electronic orchestration attempt to communicate in a proto-language beyond the rational: a landscape of sensations that bypass the brain and work directly on the body.

The experiential work functions as a ritual or purgation, an attempted reconstitution of the voice. It inhabits a space which is seemingly alien, primordial and futuristic, a fantasy of new possibilities for language and gender, a monument and a void which gives way to something new.

“This is the pinnacle of their [Sydney Chamber Opera’s] daring provocations and an essential work for anybody wanting to experience the cutting edge of the operatic art form.” – TimeOut

“… a remarkable tour-de-force”– Sydney Morning Herald

“Sheldon’s command of pure and profane vocal sounds is remarkable. Her stamina likewise. In cahoots with musical director Jack Symonds’ theremin, electronic treatments developed by Ricketson and sound designer Bob Scott, and a mini-orchestra of shrieking Inca death whistles, it is overwhelming. The Howling Girls coils around the listener like some impossibly ancient Siren song.” – Audrey Journal


Sydney Chamber Opera, resident company at Carriageworks, is a fresh and youthful answer to some of the difficult questions facing today’s opera industry. Artistic Director Jack Symonds and Louis Garrick established SCO in 2010 and it has rapidly developed into an important and distinctive voice in the Australian music and theatre landscapes. SCO is critically acclaimed for its innovative programming, musical rigour and strong focus on compelling theatre-making.

SCO makes opera with a 21st-century outlook that resonates with a new, younger audience, and that shows how vibrant and relevant the artform can be. Their program aims for a balance of specially commissioned work by leading homegrown composers, the latest international operas in their Australian premieres, song cycles and cantatas in unusual stagings, and canonical repertoire reinvigorated by the country’s most daring theatrical talent.