February 3, 2006
The Portrait
Composer:Becky Llewellyn
Librettist:Becky Llewellyn
In 1944, Stella Bowen was commissioned by the Australian War Memorial as a WWII War Artist in London. Bowen’s famous portrait of a Lancaster bomber crew who perished the night she had sketched them, frames the opera’s beginning and ending. (Many other paintings are projected and interweave with her story.)

Stella Bowen goes to London in 1914 as a young woman dreaming of becoming a painter. She is befriended by writer Violet Hunt who introduces her at a party to her lover, the famous Ford Madox Ford. Ford and Stella fall deeply in love and he deserts the older woman, Violet. They live out their fairytale dream in a cottage for three years, even having a baby, but tire of the poverty and isolation. On moving to Paris, they become the toast of the town, with weekly bal musettes for the arts crowd and start the transatlantic review with the proceeds of their farm sale. Their relationship unravels when Ford becomes entangled with the writer Jean Rhys and a dangerous love triangle unfolds. Stella agrees to Jean moving in with them, as Ford agonises about his choices and behaviour. Stella eventually throws them both out and reclaims herself through painting. Later, she takes their daughter to France to farewell a dying Ford and all the women who have loved him farewell Ford together. Stella awakes from her reverie and sings with the airmen about to fly to their fates of the courage of facing each day with a brave heart.

Title Information

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Approximate Runtime (hh:mm)

Musical Style
Lyrical, song-based work, inspired by music of the 20s and 30s

Vocal & Musical Forces
3 sopranos, 1 mezzo soprano, one tenor, one baritone, one bass baritone; Conductor and seven member chamber ensemble: violin, ‘cello, double bass, clarinet/recorder, piano/percussion, guitar/banjo, drum kit/vibraphone/assorted percussion

Original Cast
Stella Bowen – Soprano – Jessica Dean
Ford Madox Ford – Bass Baritone – Pelham Andrews
Violet Hunt/Paris Socialite – Mezzo Soprano – Sarah Sweeting
Jean Rhys – Dramatic Soprano – Tessa Miller
Julie Ford – Lyric Soprano – Rachel McCall
Soldier 1/Airman 1 – Tenor – Ben Rasheed
Soldier 2/Airman 2/Jeffrey – Baritone – Andrew Turner

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