Sydney Chamber Opera is bringing the world premiere of Biographica to this year’s Sydney Festival.

Based on the life story of Gerolamo Cardano, who was one of the most influential thinkers of all time, it stars Mitchell Butel in the title role.

An Italian Renaissance polymath, Cardano was a mathematician, physician, astrologer, philosopher, surgeon and gambler. He wrote hundreds of works about medicine, mathematics, physics, philosophy, religion, and music, listened to guardian angels, and dreamed of defeating time. He also pioneered sign language. He was a prolific inventor and flawed father, described as solitary, aggressive and peculiar.

“It actually feels like a very modern story,” said Butel, talking to Ali Aitken at yesterday’s media call. “It’s that constant struggle between art and work and family. I think every life is consumed by those questions – have I done the right thing by my work, have I done the right thing by my family, it’s very interesting.”

Biographica takes the form of a sequence of portraits with Caldano reflecting on his life, focusing on moments of transformation, elation and tragedy including his birth (after his mother’s attempt to abort him), his children (his eldest son was beheaded and his daughter a prostitute) and his death.

“He actually predicted the day of his death,” Butel said, adding that the show begins on the afternoon of that day in September 1576.

Between each of the 12 portraits Cardano shares his letters and observations, revealing himself to be a deeply human and imaginative soul in a world on the edge of a philosophical leap forward.

The production is directed by Janice Muller and features a score by multiple award-winning composer Mary Finsterer, with a libretto by Tom Wright. Jack Symonds is the conductor.

The cast also features Jane Sheldon, Simon Lobelson, Andrew Goodwin, Anna Fraser and Jessica O’Donoghue, with musicians from Ensemble Offspring.

7-13 January 2017
Bay 20, Carriageworks

Ali Aitken – Theatre Now and Talking Arts