Take an internationally acclaimed chanteuse and the resources of Australia’s most innovative mainstream opera company and produce a show about prostitutes and prostitution. Well, such a proposal is, dare I say, pregnant with possibility.

‘Tis Pity, a collaboration between Australian-born cabaret performer, Meow Meow and Victorian Opera with music by VO Artistic Director, Richard Mills and directed by Cameron Menzies is a musical history of the world’s oldest profession and its practitioners from the primeval swamp to the Internet age, told in ten contrasting vignettes. Amongst many things, it is an interesting exploration of how opera intersects with cabaret, even though the c-word is never mentioned in the work’s subtitle.

Kanen Breen and Meow Meow, photos by Pia Johnson

As usual, VO does an admirable job in telling the story with minimal resources. Meow is joined by tenor, Kanen Breen and three dancers, backed by Orchestra Victoria. The stage at Elisabeth Murdoch Hall at the Melbourne Recital Centre is reminiscent of the faded grandeur of pre-war Europe; bedecked with velvet curtains. The gentlemen of Orchestra Victoria are accoutred in white-tie and tails. In a nod to Bertolt Brecht, two gilded screens...