1988 Music

Four short pieces


For piano

Four Short Pieces were commissioned for Allen’s Publishing for their Australian Bicentennial Anthology of piano music.

About the work

The pieces perhaps suggest nature images, but the only one that was a reaction to something specific is the last, which was suggested by watching and hearing a beck in spate (or flooded stream) on the west coast of Scotland.

There are 4 movements:
II. Sensitively
III. With Energy
IV. Fiercely.


Four short pieces were published in 1988 by Allens but the album is long out of print.

Australian Bicentennial Anthology — publication

Bride of Fortune


Opera in 2 acts for soprano, tenor, 2 baritones, and 10 smaller roles doubling as chorus, accompanied by a 17-piece ensemble

Libretto by Anna Maria dell’Oso

Bride of Fortune was commissioned by West Australia Opera and the Perth Festival. It was first performed in a 4-night season at the Octagon Theatre during the 1991 Perth Festival. Performers included the WASO Ensemble and singers  Merlyn Quaife (Grazia), Geoffrey Harris (Vito), and Emma Mathews in perhaps her first professional role as Grazia’s sister Fiorina.

About the work

Bride of Fortune is set in Calabria and Sicily in Italy, and Melbourne in Australia in the early 1950s. It’s a work about immigration from Europe to the New World after the war, about the importance of letters in a pre-computer age and about the difference between the different cultures.

The opera opens with the main character, Grazia, writing a letter in her Collingwood, Melbourne flat to her sister — her story is told in flashback.

In Calabria, Grazia is with her sisters preparing for her arranged marriage to Vito, who lives in Melbourne and whom she has never met. (This was common practice at that time, until Australian law put a stop to the practice around 1952.) The marriage takes place, with Vito represented by his photo. She has the ring to take to him, celebrations follow and, as she is leaving by ship from Naples, she argues with her brother Ennio about her land that she refuses to sell to him. On the ship she writes a letter to her husband-to-be, imagining their life together.

In Melbourne, things are very different from her expectations. Vito is crippled from an accident in the brewery where he works, and he is living in the shabby flat of a friend, Mario. Grazia takes a job in a textile factory, and Vito becomes jealous of Mario when he playfully flirts with Grazia. In Sicily, Vito’s mother-in-law has received a ticket so that his young daughter from his previous marriage can join him in Melbourne, and Grazia, unaware of this, comes across a box containing the child’s clothing.

Things unravel quickly from this point. Vito, fuelled with jealousy, challenges Mario, who refuses to fight him, Grazia loses her factory job, Ennio sells Grazia’s land, Vito gambles and loses Grazia’s pay, they argue, Vito hits Grazia and she runs out of the flat sobbing.

Some days later he receives a letter telling him his daughter, still in Sicily, has died of tuberculosis. He is very drunk when Grazia comes to collect her belongings with some friends from the factory. A letter from Fiorina has arrived — she has sold her own land and can pay for Grazia’s return to Italy. As the women rejoice, Vito, anguished, pulls out a knife and holds it to Grazia’s throat.

The flat is surrounded by police and a priest is begging Vito to give himself up. Vito shows Grazia a photo of his dead child. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ she asks. ‘If I had told you, would you have come?’ The police burst in and seeing Vito threatening them with a knife, they shoot him. Grazia places the wedding ring on his finger as he dies.

Grazia is finishing her letter to Fiorina as another immigrant family are looking to rent the flat. Grazia is pregnant. She will stay in Australia to provide a better life for her child, and hopes Fiorina will come and join her. ‘Life is hard here, but we can live.’


The score is written for 13 singers, who, except for the 2 main roles, cover many roles between them, both as soloists and ensemble singers.

The orchestration is: flute, oboe, clarinet and saxophone (1 player), horn, trumpet, trombone, timpani, 2 pianos, piano accordion and 2 violins, violas, cellos and double basses.

One musician could play percussion and piano, and a cast member could play the simple accordion part.

Production notes

Some use is made of recorded sound — for example, street sounds, crowd sounds, water, wind — and the Perth production also used slides in the shipboard scenes.

Score and recording

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Bride of fortune — SOUNZ


A review of the Perth season by Noel Sanders was published in Music in New Zealand.

The Bride of Fortune: Gillian Whitehead at Perth — publication

A thesis by Anne Power about opera in Australia from 1988-1998 discusses this opera.

Voice identity — publication