Many consider it the great Australian novel. So will George Palmer’s adaptation be the next great Australian opera?

When Cloudstreetfirst hit bookshop shelves 25 years ago, not even its author could have anticipated the novel’s success. There’s nothing grand or extravagant about Tim Winton’s story of two working-class families brought together to live in a run-down, rickety house in an unnamed suburb of Perth. No, the secret of this endearing and humble novel, that charmed readers around the country, was its quintessentially Aussie prose, loveable characters, and evocative description of Australian life in the 1940s, ‘50s and early ‘60s.

The book has since been made into a radio play, a wildly successful theatre production and most recently a TV miniseries. And now this favourite Australian literary masterpiece is undergoing yet another transformation: into a new operatic work opening this month at State Opera of South Australia.

For composer George Palmer QC, turning Cloudstreetinto an opera has been one of the biggest undertakings of his musical career. After juggling composing with his work as a solicitor, and serving ten years on the bench as a Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Palmer gave up his life...