Box, The by Houston Dunleavy


Short Opera about love, c.9'30
Leona works in a warehouse with Gil and Byron, who have been friends, as well as co-workers, for years. In the course of her work, she opens a box that's inexplicably empty.  Tossing it aside as a fluke, she continues - but something odd is happening.  Why are Gil and Byron looking at each other like that? She hears a news item on the radio: everyone in Sydney is falling in love!  Terrified that this sudden vulnerability will leave her friends open to heartbreak, she slams the box shut again.  Nothing good can come of this:  nothing good has ever come of such reckless emotion. "Hearts are warehouses," she sings, "shelves of plain brown boxes holding nothing much.  I've always known it - the heart has no possibilities".
Leona can't decide - will she open the box, or not?
Composed 2010.  Libretto by Laura E Goodin.

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 The Box - sheet music

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 ISMN 9790720126517


Isabella by Vivien Arnold

score and libretto

Ideal Music Theatre work for primary and secondary school students and adults.
Isabella [or The trials of a convicts maid] is a cross-genre piece - a combination of melodrama, pantomime and G&S.  The humour, using caricature, pun and slap-stick, is designed to cater for all ages.  Over the past three decades it has been regularly performed in schools and adult drama and operatic societies throughout Australia.
Composed 1977 rev 1979

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 ISMN 9790720171838


Job Pilgrim by Vivien Arnold

score and libretto

Ideal Music Theatre work.
This work was informed and inspired by many contemporary theologians, psychologists, scientists and poets including Cynthia  Bourgeault, Richard Dawkins, Richard Rohr, John Saxbee, Eckhart Tolle, and Keith Ward, and those now dead including Meister Ekhart, TS Eliot, John Greenleaf Whittier, Hafiz, G M Hopkins, Rainer Rilke, Rumi,  and  in particular Carl Jung.  I have used their words both as quotes and libretti throughout.  I have also used Biblical texts.  The work is based on the Book of Job.
Inspiration also came from doctors, nursing staff and patients.
The script is loosely modelled on a miracle play. The music is enigmatic in the use of keys: Bb (be flat); C (see); C# (see sharply), B (Be); although, for the sake of variety, this idea isn’t used exclusively.
The choir of pilgrims, the quartet and many of the solos and duets by Christof and Sophia, act like a Greek chorus, commenting on the play
Although this is conceived as a dramatised oratorio, the music could stand alone as a whole or as separate items.  A second script - Faith Re-Found - (included as an addendum) is provided to hold much of the music together for performance as an oratorio with no dramatics.
Written and music composed 2014

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 ISMN 9790720171999


Man Called Thunderbolt, The by Vivien Arnold

score and libretto

 Ideal Music Theatre work for higher school students and adults.

Fred Ward - alias Captain Thunderbolt - was Australia's longest lasting and most successful bushranger.  Over seven years he held people up in the New England area and was rumoured to have taken twenty thousand pounds.  Naturally this peeved a great many people.  However there were others who truly held him in esteem - even some of his victims.
This arose from admiration of his superb horsemanship, his unfailing politeness, his eschewed non-violence, his good humour and sense of fun, his soft-heartedness, his kindness to the orphaned, his championship of the underdog, and his sense of fair play.  In short, he was Australia's real life Robin Hood.
In sharp contrast, the authorities showed him no leniency at any stage.  Moreover, after his death, some believe accounts of his life were deliberately suppressed and expunged because he was a natural inspiration for the sort of republican rebellion they dreaded.  
His strong and passionate relationship with Maryanne Bugg - Queen Yellow Long - pointed to reconciliation with the first Australians.  Sadly their children were farmed out and the lineage lost.
This opera traces the story of their lives as a reality, albeit somewhat romanticised.  At the same time it examines attitudes and interests of the day in the young colony of New South Wales through using both anecdotes and written records.
Its large cast features people documented in the stories told about Ward.  All chorus members are required to have speaking or solo/ensemble singing roles so this is not a production that asks people to sit around back-stage for slabs of time.  The original staging comprised large blocks that could be quickly rearranged for set changes.  This too was the job of the entire cast, who sometimes turned their backs to the audience forming human walls as part of the set.  Costuming is inexpensive.  
The work was written for an amateur society with a cast of around 50 (good for ticket sales!).  It received critical acclaim when it was staged in 1988 for the bicentennial.  Being an historic piece it has not dated.


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 ISMN 9790720171173


Muffin Fiend, The by Diana Blom

libretto, score and parts

Children's Opera  
The children's opera, The Muffin Fiend, was written in 1990 and received its first performance in 1991 by Wenona Junior School in Sydney, Australia.  Drawing on a number of musical influences, (including Mozart), the music takes cues from Pinkwater's classic children book of the same name, first published by Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books, New York in 1986.  
The libretto is based on The Muffin Fiend by Daniel Pinkwater, by arrangement with the Andrew Brown Literary Agency, Inc.; the cover illustration, by Daniel Pinkwater, is used with permission.
Composed 2015
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Second Chance, The by Houston Dunleavy

Libretto and score

Short Opera about redemption, c.10'30
Young lovers Keith and Erica are in the last days of their doomed relationship.  Angry and distant, they have no chance of finding or giving forgiveness for whatever drove them apart.  By some odd quirk of time, space, and fate, their 20-years-older selves are flung back to this moment, forced to watch what they have both replayed in their minds a thousand times and more:  the moment when Erica walked away, and Keith ... just ... lets her go.
Current-day Keith and Erica plead with their younger selves, trying to make them see that they're throwing away the best person they will ever love, that the rest of their lives will be dull and full of regret and pain.  The younger selves can neither see nor hear them, and the older selves realise that if this love is to be redeemed, it can only happen to who they are right now.
Composed 2010.  Libretto by Laura E Goodin.




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 The Second Chance - sheet music

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 ISMN 9790720126524