Opera:Émilie & Voltaire
Composer: Nicholas Gentile
Librettist: Cheryl Sawyer
It is 1738. Voltaire, famous poet, playwright and philosopher, is sheltering at a château in a remote part of the Champagne region. The King of France has signed a warrant for his arrest which can be activated at any time. With him at her family’s château of Cirey is his mistress, Émilie, Marquise du Châtelet.
The lovers are passionate about scientific research and Voltaire has entered an essay competition set by the Academy of Sciences on the subject of fire. Unbeknown to him, Émilie has also submitted a paper—an act unheard of for a woman. She has kept this a secret from Voltaire for months.
Émilie & Voltaire opens with the unexpected arrival of the renowned geometer Maupertuis, ‘the man who flattened the earth’, a friend of Voltaire’s and former mathematics tutor—and lover—of Émilie. He comes direct from the Academy in Paris, with the results of the competition.
Friends and rivals in learning and in love, they form a volatile triangle.
This opera presents three geniuses under one roof for a single climactic day during the Enlightenment. The intimate conflict reveals their fears and jealousies, their ambitions and desires—and at its heart is the extraordinary Émilie du Châtelet, whose contributions to mathematics and science resonate
in our own time.
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NICHOLAS GENTILE - Composer
Nicholas Gentile has established himself as a fine talent in the Music Industry with shining testimonials concerning theatre, performance and composition. A proud graduate of the prestigious Talent Development Project, Nicholas has performed and studied around the world.
In 2010, Nicholas received a scholarship to London to study conducting under Denise Ham and Colin Pettit on the West End Production of Les Miserables. In 2013, Nicholas travelled to Broadway through the Talent Development Project to work with composers like Stephen Schwartz (WICKED, Godspell, Pippin) and Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Sister Act, Aladdin) and perform in theatre venues around New York and Washington such as Don’t Tell Mamma and The Kennedy Centre. He was invited back to be a student in the Marvin Hamlisch Broadway Conductors Program.
Nicholas is the composer of La Creole, Together Apart, and last year released a musical short film trilogy online starring Philip Quast. He has worked as a composer and orchestrator on various short films for international film festivals. He continues to teach musical theatre at the Australian Institute of Music and occasionally joins the staff at NIDA and the International Screen Academy. Nicholas has recently undertaken a new position as the Chief Conductor of the Sydney Girls Orchestra.
CHERYL SAWYER - Librettist
Cheryl Sawyer is a New Zealander who has been resident in Australia since 1988. She has two master’s degrees with honours in English and French literature from the University of Auckland. The greater part of her career has been in publishing and she was freelance editor of The Bone People by Keri Hulme, winner of the 1985 Booker Prize in the UK. Cheryl has been the translator of journals by 18th-century French explorers in the Pacific (published by the Alexander Turnbull Library and, for eight years, opera reviewer for the Australian Jewish News.
Her novels, published in several languages by such houses as Penguin, Bertelsmann and Random House, have been longlisted for awards by the Historical Novel Society (UK) and the American Library in Paris. She wrote the book of La Créole, a musical composed by Nicholas Gentile. She now writes full-time and all her books are in print with Endeavour Press UK. Her recent play on the same theme as the opera is under consideration by five major theatre companies.