Music Australia News

TV opera ‘The Divorce’ wins over the early critics

‘The Divorce’, with music by Elena Kats-Chernin
Graham Strahle
| December 8, 2015

The early reviews are in, and opinion on ‘The Divorce’, a four-part TV opera currently being screened by the ABC, already seems to be glowing. This unique hybrid work, the result of a collaboration between ABC TV, Opera Australia and Princess Pictures (‘Summer Heights High’), defies easy categorisation as it cleverly combines elements of stage-show, musical, comic opera and TV drama. Lyndon Terracini, artistic director of Opera Australia, came up with the idea behind it, and Elena Kats-Chernin composed its music – it’s the first time she has written specifically for television.

The SMH’s TV critic Melinda Houston was particularly impressed by Joanna Murray-Smith’s libretto (“There are some cracking lines”) and felt the plot worked well enough – about a glamorous high society couple who decide to call their marriage quits and throw a celebratory ‘uncoupling’ party to mark the occasion. Houston described ‘The Divorce’ as a “bold experiment” that has given audiences “something completely out of the box, a kind of Mozart-meets-Noel Coward with a distinctly Australian, 21st century bent”. She thought Kats-Chernin’s music is “terrific” even if the singing is not always up to the mark. With all its quirkiness, experimentalism and ebullience, ‘The Divorce’ is “Exactly what our ABC should be doing,” wrote Houston.

Ben Neutze in Daily Review liked it well enough to suggest that “Opera Australia TV productions should become regular events” if ‘The Divorce’ attracts enough viewers. He favoured its accessibility and noticed that the story “cleverly mirrors the upstairs/downstairs dynamics at play in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, as well as the crossed lovers and mistaken identities”. He felt likewise that “vocal fire power” was lacking in places but was also impressed by Kats-Chernin’s score, summing it up as “contemporary, tuneful and driven by pop/musical theatre rhythms with consistently fast tempi”.

Leading the cast are Marina Pryor, Lisa McCune, Hugh Sheridan and Kate Miller-Heidke, who mime their own pre-recorded singing as they act on screen. The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra and Opera Australia Chorus also took part in making the sound track.

‘The Divorce’ continues screening until 10 December.


  1. Sandra Nevill

    How refreshing. Loved it, loved it!! Watched all four episodes together whilst on my new year break.

    So much fun, great camera work and beautiful music and cast performances. Thank you

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