Chaos in Oz: Opera is disrupted by disgruntled composer

Chaos in Oz: Opera is disrupted by disgruntled composer


norman lebrecht

May 12, 2019

We hear the the opening night of Rigoletto in Melbourne was held up while an elderly man began shouting through a megaphone at the orchestra from the front row of the stalls.

Some eyewitnesses have named the disrupter as a 90 year-old composer who feels unfairly neglected by Opera Australia. We await confirmation.

UPDATE: The composer has been identified as George Dreyfus. He had an opera commissioned by the company 50 years ago but never staged.

Here’s how it looked:



  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    As far as I know there is no noteworthy 90 year old Australian composer, let alone one that is into writing operas. All the major Australian composers are either younger or are dead.

    • observer says:

      This is a rich sentence: “All the major Australian composers are either younger or are dead.”

      Yes, if any promising composer reaches the age of 30, the ever-sensible Aussies promptly bump them off. 🙂

    • Malcolm Ede says:

      Then you don’t know much at all. Australian composer Brett Dean has recently had his Hamlet performed at Glyndebourne (subsequently released on DVD).

  • Anon says:

    Great story here. This composer, George Dreyfus, was commissioned by Opera Australia to write a an opera in 1969. They never performed it. He’s been staging protests at Opera Australia performances ever since.

    • Vapensiero says:

      He was never “commissioned”. The then artistic director asked him to write a score, which he did. It was so lame the company refused to perform it. Without a legal leg to stand on he has staged a demented protest outside the theatre in Melbourne every year. He is a serial pest.

    • The View from America says:

      Let’s be charitable: It gives him a purpose in life.

  • William Evans says:

    It’s an unfortunate fact that, as Jack Symonds, the Artistic Director of Sydney Chamber Opera, says in the article to which Anon refers, “A commission doesn’t necessarily mean [the opera] will be produced. There are many more operas commissioned than there are produced.” At least Mr Dreyfuss was paid for his composition. The same article also indicates that only one of several commissioned one-act operas composed for this project was actually performed; it’s therefore unclear whether The Australian Opera was ever contractually or, indeed, ethically bound to produce ‘The Gilt-Edged Kid’. Mr Dreyfuss has been a successful composer notwithstanding this long-term feud and it seems somewhat obsessive for him to pursue this vendetta for so long.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    His son is the execrable Mark Dreyfus, repressive and authoritarian ideologue who will shortly be the new Australian Attorney General (if the polls are correct). Like father like son.

  • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

    Speaking of Oz, did you know that L. Frank Baum, author of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, was a Wagner-freak? First of all, the second sequel, called OZMA OF OZ, is an obvious rip-off of the plot of DAS RHEINGOLD, and, more tellingly, another book of his, called JOHN DOUGH AND THE CHERUB, includes the following exchange :

    As he [John Dough, the gingerbread-man] walked along he heard the sound of a piano, and paused at an open door to peer within the room, for he imagined some one was pounding upon the keys of the piano with a sledge-hammer. But immediately a fluffy-haired man looked up and saw him, and the next instant pounced upon the gingerbread man in much the same way that a cat would pounce upon a rat, and seized him fast, drew him into the room, and closed and locked the door.

    John was astonished, but the fluffy-haired musician began pacing up and down the room, swinging his arms and shouting:

    “I have it! I have it at last! I am great! I am magnificent! I am better than Vogner himself!” He paused to glare upon John. “Why don’t you shout, you baked idiot? Why don’t you weep with joy?” he cried. “It is great, I tell you! It is great!”

    “What is great?” asked John.

    “The symphonie! The divine symphonie, you heartless molasses-cake, or devil’s food, or whatever you are! And I composed it—I—Tietjamus Toips! I am greater than Vogner!”

    “I didn’t hear it,” said the gingerbread man.

    The musician threw himself upon the piano, and produced a succession of such remarkable sounds that John was surprised.

    “Did you understand it?” demanded the fluffy-haired one, jumping up again.

    “No,” said John.

    “No! Of course not! No one can understand it. It is genius! It will be played at all the great concerts. The critics will write columns in praise of it. Some folks can understand Vogner a little. No one can understand me at all! I am wonderful! I am superb!”

    “Well,” said John, “I’m not a judge. It seemed to me like awful discord.”

    The musician threw himself upon his knees and burst into tears.

    “Thank you, my friend!—my dear friend!” said he, between the sobs. “Such praise gladdens my heart and makes me very happy! Ah! glorious moment, in which I produce music that is not understood and sounds like discord!”

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    It was George Dreyfus. Good to see he is alive an well.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    There’s obviously some goodwill around for the old boy. Why can’t he just recycle a Berg-style ‘three pieces’ or suite (like Wozzeck, Lulu) or a Ligeti-style ‘scenes & fragments’ (like ‘le Grand Macabre’) ?

    It is an amusing story though. Thanks for posting !

  • Esther Cavett says:

    All this lying on the pavement and shouting through megaphones may give Mr Borstlap & Sally some ideas – agitating outside Slipped Disc HQ when things aren’t going quite to plan.

  • David Lumsdaine says:

    It gets even better. The link below says

    “His protest came to a halt after the lights went down and Mr Dreyfus could not get his megaphone working.”

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Don’t worry, there’s always his shill Mark Dreyfus – who cannot wait to get into parliament to get his hands on beefing up Human Rights legislation so that people only ever end up agreeing with him. He’s an awful individual but I read the story of George and suddenly at all makes sense.

  • RW2013 says:

    He will still always be remembered for