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Watershed: The Death of Dr Duncan

past event


The moment and the movement that changed Australia.

As his body hit the water, few heard the impact. But the ripple effect of the murderous act defied natural law and swelled to seismic scale.

It’s half a century since the infamous drowning of Dr George Ian Ogilvie Duncan; a moment in time that triggered an alleged police cover-up, a city-wide scandal, national outrage, a Scotland Yard investigation… and a glaring absence of convictions.

Most importantly, Dr Duncan’s death led South Australia to decriminalise homosexuality, ahead of the rest of the country.

Watershed, a ravishing new operatic work and the hit of the 2022 Adelaide Festival, is a collaboration between some of Australia’s most acclaimed creative talents.

Helpmann Award-winning playwright Alana Valentine and author Christos Tsiolkas (The Slap) have created a searing, no-punches-pulled libretto. Brisbane composer Joe Twist’s score is luscious and ultimately transcendent. And Australian theatre and opera legend Neil Armfield’s production is as deeply felt as it is thrillingly physical.

Written as an oratorio, Watershed turns the illicit into the sacred, through powerful choral music, solo voices and dance. It fuses inquest transcripts, press clippings, private correspondence and monologues spanning five decades of anti-gay violence, and pays tribute to the unassuming academic whose untimely death lit a fuse.

See for yourself why Watershed was met with five-star reviews, a sold-out premiere season, and rapturous, teary standing ovations at every performance.

Presented by Opera Australia and Sydney Opera House by arrangement with Adelaide Festival

Enabled by Sydney Opera House donor Professor Ross Steele AM and New Work Now donors.

Co-commissioned by Feast Festival, Adelaide Festival and State Opera South Australia, supported by Arts South Australia and by the Adelaide Festival’s Commissioning Circle, Sidney Myer Fund and Nunn Dimos Foundation.

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