Opera Australia unveiled a new performance space last night when it staged Metamorphosisby Australian composer Brian Howard in the scenery workshop at the Opera Centre in Sydney – and it proved to be the perfect, grungy setting for the dark, challenging chamber opera.

Simon Lobelson. All photos © Prudence Upton 

Welcoming the audience, OA Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini, who played Gregor Samsa in the 1983 world premiere for the Victoria State Opera, couldn’t resist pointing out that the temporary stage constructed for the occasion is wider and higher than the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House.

He also announced that Julie Lea Goodwin, who was to have played Gregor’s sister Greta, had a severe throat infection and had been replaced by directing assistant Tabatha McFadyen who had begun learning the role the morning before. And what an amazing job she did too, more of which later.

Based on Franz Kafka’s famous 1915 novella about Gregor Samsa, an overworked, under-appreciated travelling salesman who wakes one morning to find that he has been transformed into a gigantic insect, Howard used Steven Berkoff’s existing stage adaptation as the libretto for his version of Metamorphosis.

This...