Award-winning composer Cat Hope’s new opera Speechless combines four soloists, a 30-voice choir, the 31-piece multi-instrumental Australian Bass Orchestra and Decibel new music ensemble in a powerful and moving response to children in detention.


Speechless follows the structure of conventional opera but uses a unique score derived from drawings and graphics extracted from the 2014 Human Rights Commission report, The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. Through a vocal language beyond words, Speechless is Hope's musical exploration of the impact on those rendered speechless through political means.


This wordless opera in five acts stars soloist Karina Utomo, pictured above, of Melbourne heavy- metal band High Tension, Sage Pbbbt, an experimental Perth vocalist who incorporates Tuvan and Mongolian overtone singing, Iranian-born singer Tara Tiba, opera singer Judith Dodsworth, plus a combined community choir of 30 voices.


The Australian Bass Orchestra, formed by Hope in 2014, consists of only low-pitched instruments such as cellos, double basses, bass guitars, bass winds and brass, bass drums, electronics and more - supported by powerful low range amplification that sends the low frequency tones through listeners’ bodies.

Presented over six nights at the exciting new Festival venue of the Sunset Heritage Precinct, Speechless is a compelling, courageous and visceral sonic world paying homage to people whose voices are rendered silent through political means. As a work in development in Adelaide last year, it was hailed by Limelight Magazine as ‘…a deeply moving, almost spiritual experience’.

The vocal element of ‘voiceless signing’ is a type of singing without understandable words pioneered by the likes of Ennio Morricone in the 1970s, and in Speechless is imbued with the experimental work of singers such as Cathy Berberian, Joan La Barbara and Australian sound poet Amanda Stewart.


Speechless is produced by WA’s Tura New Music, a national driving force in new music and sound art for over 30 years. Commissioned by Perth Festival, it is one of six ‘Made in WA’ Perth Festival commissions to have their world premiere at the 2019 Festival.


Cat Hope is one of Australia’s foremost composers, musicians and experimental sound artists. She is a classically trained flautist, self-taught vocalist, experimental bassist and is the director of Decibel new music ensemble. She won the Award for Excellence in Experimental Music at the APRA AMC Art Awards in 2011 and 2014. She has been in pop bands, noise groups and new music and orchestral groups. She is Head of School at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University.



Event Category 
Event Details
Event Date & Time 
Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - 20:00 to Sunday, March 3, 2019 - 20:00
Event Location 
Sunset Heritage Precinct, 80 Birdwood Parade, Dalkeith WA 6009
Contact Information
Organiser Name 
Tura New Music & Perth Festival
Organiser Telephone  
08 6488 5555