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"Operatic performances two hundred miles in the Australian bush": Staging rural identity, the case of Madame Fannie Simonsen in Wagga Wagga, 1866

posted on 2019-01-22, 00:00 authored by Nicole AnaeNicole Anae
This chapter investigates the social and cultural discourses that informed journalistic commentary placing the central figure of performer as a key to defining Australian rural identity in the nineteenth century. The publicity about performance generally, and about French-born prima donna Fannie Simonsen (1835 – 1896) particularly, one of the first female opera stars of international repute to perform in the Riverina district of New South Wales, suggests a heightening awareness of rural identity in the period. It involved, to some degree, not only the recognition of the cultural influence of performers as ‘pioneers,’ but also the construction of a loose consensus of what constituted the identity of rural pioneers. Simonsen’s appearances in Wagga Wagga in 1866 occurred almost a decade after the establishment of both amateur and semi-amateur theatre in the Riverina district and elsewhere. Accounts such as those reporting on Simonsen’s appearances in Wagga Wagga defined rural audiences primarily by what they were not: metropolitan. Situating these accounts within the context of the Riverina’s emergent theatre culture reveals the existence of a distinct tension between understanding the ‘pioneer’ as a rural identity responsible for geographic ‘taming,’ and the nineteenth century media narrative of the pioneer as something more: an importer of material artefacts and an agent of enculturation in rural communities.



Blacklow N; Whitford T

Parent Title

Where the Crows Fly Backwards: Notions of Rural Identity

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Post Pressed

Place of Publication

Queensland, Australia

Open Access

  • No

Era Eligible

  • No

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