In the hit and miss world of contemporary opera, securing a commission and first performance is one thing, the elusive second performance is frequently quite another. That’s not proved a problem for Australian composer Liza Lim, however, whose fourth opera, Tree of Codes, will receive its second international staging next month in Charleston as part of the ever-enterprising Spoleto Festival.

Liza Lim, Tree of Codes Liza Lim. Photo ©

“Each [of my four operas] had quite different inspirations,” says Lim, currently based in Sydney where she is Professor of Composition at the Conservatorium, “though there are some commonalities in terms of regarding opera as a space for ritual, for a kind of intensity of desire, for storytelling as a channeling of forces of history, of memory and forgetting.”

She describes her first opera, The Oresteia, as being inspired by “the muscular ritual quality of Harrison Birtwistle’s operas Punch and Judy and The Mask of Orpheus”. With a libretto by Barrie Kosky and Lim herself, this ambitious work was based on the writings of Aeschylus and Sappho as well as  the contemporary poet Tony Harrison. Commissioned by longtime champions ELISION ensemble, it premiered at...