The commission for composer Christopher Sainsbury’s first opera came out of the blue. 

Richard Mills [the Artistic Director of Victorian Opera] rang me. We were having a bit of a chat and he said, ‘I’ve been watching your work over the years, Chris, and I think it’s about time we had an opera from you.’” All he needed to do, said Mills, was come up with a good story.

Christopher Sainsbury smiles and sits on a staircase, his hand under his chin.

Christopher Sainsbury. Photo supplied

A Dharug musician and educator, Christopher Sainsbury is passionate about interpreting his home region of the Central Coast of NSW and Sydney (Eora) through his art. He is also the founding Director of the award-winning Ngarra-Burria: First Peoples Composers program. 

Sainsbury’s search for a good story took him back to a play he had seen at the 2020 Sydney Festival – The Visitors by First Nations playwright Jane Harrison in which she creates a radical reimagination of the events of 26 January, 1788, from an Aboriginal perspective. 

The play is set on the cliffs of Sydney Harbour, as we now call it,...