Deborah Cheetham, Yorta Yorta woman, soprano, composer and educator has been a leader in the Australian arts landscape for more than 25 years.
In the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Deborah was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), for distinguished service to the performing arts as an opera singer, composer and artistic director, to the development of Indigenous artists, and to innovation in performance.
Short Black Opera Café, Death Scenes and Drama Queens and ‘Til The Black Lady Sings were early successes for Deborah Cheetham combinging her talents as a writer, performer and entrepreneur. ‘Til the Black Lady Sings has toured to London, New York, Eastern Europe and around Australia for almost a decade.
Deborah’s early career was shaped by an opportunity to study in New York with vocal coaches and repetiteurs from the Metropolitan Opera and Julliard School of Music. Upon returning to Australia, Deborah created her first major work, the critically acclaimed White Baptist Abba Fan and toured extensively with this show for the next five years.
In April 2007, Ms Cheetham was awarded a two-year Fellowship from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board of the Australia Council for the Arts. This fellowship allowed her to create Australia’s first Indigenous opera, Pecan Summer.The following year, she began the process of bringing together in Melbourne, Indigenous singers from around the nation for intensive classical vocal training in preparation for the world premiere of her opera Pecan Summer in October 2010.
The success of Pecan Summer led to the creation of Short Black Opera Company, a national not-for-profit opera company devoted to the discovery and development of Indigenous opera singers. As Artistic Director of Short Black Opera Company Deborah Cheetham has assisted many Indigenous singers to find their voice through the powerful medium of opera. Successive seasons of Pecan Summer have included performances at the Melbourne Arts Centre (Melbourne 2011), WA State Theatre Centre (Perth 2012) and Her Majesty’s Theatre (Adelaide 2014) and the award winning Sydney Opera House production in 2016.
In March 2015 Ms Cheetham was inducted onto the Victorian Honour Roll of Women.
Major compositions include Pecan Summer, Ceremonial music for the opening of MPavilion 2014- 2017. Eumeralla Prelude, commissioned for the Australian String Quartet premiering in October at the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival. Ancient Land Processional, commissioned for the opening of the newly built Grand Hall of the University of South Australia (due for completion later 2017). Dali Mana Gamarada for the Opening of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Eternal Birrarung for the re-launch of the Federation Bells and Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace which will have its premiere on Sunday October 14 at the 2018 Port Fairy Festival and is set to advance the progress towards a meaningful reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-aboriginal Australians.