The composer’s seven-year-old promise, with some vocal help from Anna Dowsley, helps author Susie Bennetts.

It was a chance encounter at Opera Australia that saw Susie Bennetts pluck up courage and ask leading composer Elena Kats-Chernin to help her launch a book about Joan of Arc. What neither of them knew at the time was that An Essence of Lightwould be seven years in the making.

Bennetts was already a fan of Kats-Chernins’ music. Like many, she had switched on to the Russian-born composer’s distinctive sound world after hearing the music for her ballet  Wild Swans. “Elena and I were sitting at Reception at Opera Australia where I work,” Bennetts explains. “She was – happily – very early for an appointment. At the time, she was editing her opera The Rage of Lifeand I was editing An Essence of Light. Then I bravely asked her that if my work was ever printed whether she would write a song to launch ‘The Maid’.”

Bennetts, whose first novella,  An Essence of Memory,was inspired by the life of St. Francis of Assisi, was attracted to Joan of Arc as a both a woman and a counterweight to her first book. “I believe her...