The Priestess of Morphine
31 Jan – 4 Feb 2023
General Content Warnings
Show contains: Adult Themes, Sexual references, War references (WW2), Depictions of Drug use, Loud and sustained music
Artist Statement on Content Warnings by Rachel Doulton (Director)
The Priestess of Morphine is a contemporary opera about Gertrud Günther von Puttkamer who was a real person who wrote about her relationships with women and morphine. The opera is written to depict two sides of herself, her real self as Gertrud and her nom de plume personified, Marie-Madeleine. As she was a real person, we wanted to accurately portray her struggle with addiction, as it was so much part of her story. There are moments where there are depictions of drug-use (injection) and visible syringes, and other drug related paraphernalia.
The style of opera is that the dialogue is sung for the duration of the show in an often loud and sustained way. There may be moments where the music and singing may feel overwhelming to you as you watch. It is advised that if you are sensitive to sound, that it may be appropriate to wear hearing protection for a portion or the duration of the play. While the performance is being sung in English, this can sometimes be difficult to understand. There will be projected captions to assist with processing the words being sung.
The subject matter of the show is heavy and may be confronting. Below is a list of specific examples in the show that contains the heavier content – please note, the information may contain spoilers. We don’t feel as though the spoilers will impact your enjoyment of the show, as the music will still feel emotionally charged and dramatic.
If you are impacted by the drug references in any way and you would like to talk to someone, please reach out to a professional. Below are a few helplines and links if you need the support:
Lifeline – Crisis support, 24hrs 7 days per week, 13 11 14.
Here For You – Alcohol, drug and mental health support line, 7am – 10pm 7 days per week, 1800 437 348. Here For You is a WA-wide confidential, non-judgemental, telephone service for anyone in Western Australia concerned about their own or another person’s alcohol and other drug use and/or mental health issues.
The Alcohol and Other Drug Consumer & Community Coalition (AODCCC) has links to many resources around the state that can help: https://aodccc.org/index.php/elementor-1671/
The music in this will help set up the themes of the show. It could sound a little different to what you are used to hearing when listening to classical music. It will also be the time where we are introduced to both characters on stage.
This piece is where Gertrud sings for the first time. She will give an introduction of who she was in real life. She will reference her conflict with the Nazis with the phrase “who taunted the Nazis with her bright red hardcovers and incendiary turns of phrase. / That woman was me. The Nazis tried to burn me, to bury my words, all mem’ry of my existence, in warridden soil. / They tried. They tried, but they failed.”
In Salvation and Sin
Marie-Madeleine will be singing this scene. She is recounting a past love affair to Gertrud. There is a feeling of erotic desire throughout, coloured with some self-loathing with words like “hellfire” “wicked” and “lecherous” that evokes a history of religious trauma.
Gertrud sings about her grapple with addiction in this piece. We see signs of her addiction in her physicality on stage and she references the history of the opium poppy and morphine. We move then to a recounting of a time she was forcibly injected with morphine at her husband’s death bed; “They shot me up without consent”
Marie has been left alone. She has never been alone in this place before and she is frightened and panicked. This song features a waterphone, most known for its use in horror films and its use here is intended to be unsettling. If you would like to hear what a waterphone looks like, please follow the link here https://youtu.be/foSJstDFDfg
This song is a duet between Gertrud and Marie. This scene will depict them using morphine by injection and they will have a syringe each. They then will be high in ecstasy at first then the trip will turn badly with them imagining Nazis in the room with them “Nazis are real and they are here”. This will culminate in some high pitched and loud singing “They will try to drive us once more into the dirt” x 2 which will be brief but can be uncomfortable to listen to.
The Flower of Oblivion
This is the final song of the show. Marie has been left alone on stage again but has come to terms with it. Marie is, to a certain extent, grappling with grief. “I’ll wind purple wreaths around my heart to stop its weeping. I’ll find the deepest dark within that dream where we’re united forever.
…forever…I’ll find the deepest dark.”She is now taking over the role that Gertrud used to play. This song will also have some high pitched notes but not as loud as the previous song.