Stars of OA’s Ring Cycle pay tribute to the secret life of Miriam Gordon-Stewart’s grandmother.

Amongst the host of Wagnerian delights that make up Opera Australia’s Melbourne RingFestival, one in particular should arouse curiosity. Susan Bullock (OA’s Brünnhilde) and Miriam Gordon-Stewart (the production’s Sieglinde) will join forces for a personal tribute recital entitled Songs for Robbie.

The genesis of the show came about by complete chance. In a storage box in a back shed, dramatic soprano Miriam Gordon-Stewart discovered a faded, hand-written memoir by her grandmother, Eileen Robbins. Robbie, as her friends called her, had died in 2007 aged 101 but, unbeknownst to her family, she had written the story of her life 30 years previously.

Her poignant, affecting stories of coming of age, music, faith and loss in the early 20th Century revealed a girl whose love of singing ruled her life. From accounts of entertaining the WWI troops as “The Nipper” to a fateful audition for a West End producer, the engaging quality of her writing inspired Gordon-Stewart to turn it all into a recital in her honour.

“I was very close to my Gran,” Miriam explains. “But reading this memoir made me realise how little I...