The operatic version of Patrick White’s novel is legendary. How long have we to wait before someone takes up the cause?

Has there ever been an Australian opera with a more protracted, turbulent and truncated history? Patrick White’s 1957 novel Voss was loosely based on the expeditions of Ludwig Leichhardt in the 1840s. The writer created an obsessed German explorer attempting to traverse our uncharted continent. Rich in so many issues embodying European heritage, national identity and Indigenous culture, Voss has long fascinated painters and film-makers, and a brave handful of composers, among these Moya Henderson and Barry Conyngham.

Critically, it was Peter Hemmings, General Manager of The Australian Opera, who hit upon a solution for bringing Voss to the operatic stage. Hemmings approached David Malouf whose early sketches persuaded the skeptical composer Richard Meale that the impossible was indeed possible: Voss could become an opera.

Voss, Patrick White, Richard MealeRobert Eddie as Judd in the original production of Voss. Photo © Don McMurdo

Egged on by director Jim Sharman, it took Meale seven tumultuous years to produce his opera from Malouf’s libretto. Had there ever been such anticipation and excitement in...