L’Esprit du Feu: Te Varua o te Auahi

Operatic work in Tahitian language, by Geoffroy Colson, libretto by Gaby Cavallo.
Non-Traditional Research Output.

L’Esprit du Feu: Te Varua o te Auahi is a creative operatic work aiming at embodying the potential sustainability of indigenous Pacific Islands cultures within a changing environment. The project delivers a highly creative and innovative artwork combining operatic singing with French Polynesian traditional music. It attempts to explore viable recontextualisations of musical heritage into contemporary creative outcomes, in developing new collaborative approaches to composing and performing indigenous musical repertoires through the employment of Western-derived musical languages. The collaborative creative outcome is per se highly original, since so far no significant transnational syncretic creation involving intercultural synthesis at compositional and performative levels has been produced, involving traditional music of this part of the Pacific.

In engaging with a wide range of artists, researchers, and cultural institutions, it contributes to the dynamism of the art experience in New South Wales and specifically in Western Sydney. It offers to young artists in development from various horizons, including Polynesian community in Western Sydney, an opportunity to participate in an innovative work, and strengthens the links between artists, researchers, cultural institutions, and communities in the Greater Sydney.

The narrative is inspired by the legend of Aro Arii te Tara, successively published in the French weekly journal L’Illustration[1] in 1927 and in the Bulletin de la Société des Etudes Océaniennes[2] in 1983. The legend has been first reported by Marau Taaroa, last queen of Tahiti, and translated by her last daughter and spiritual heir Ariimanihinihi Takau Pomare. Marau Taaroa was born in 1860 to Alexander Salmon, an English merchant, and Princess Oehau, adoptive daughter of King Pōmare II’s widow. Interestingly, she was educated in Sydney, in Miss Fallow’s Private School in Macquarie street, very close to the actual Sydney Conservatorium of Music! She left Sydney in 1874 to marry heir prince Ariiaue. The premiere of ‘Ui nō Fa‘aoe in Sydney would be a nice recall of history and the links between Australia and Tahiti.

[1] Marau Taaroa, “Aro Arii Te Tara, Légende Tahitienne Recueillie Par La Reine Marautaaroa Et Traduite Par Sa Fille La Princesse Takau,” l’Illustration, 3 December 1927.

[2] Raanui Daunassans, “Aro Arii Te Tara,” Bulletin de la Société des Etudes Océaniennes XVIII, no. 223 (1983).