• Harvey Milk (Dan Nicoletta)Source: Dan Nicoletta
American gay rights leader Harvey Milk is the subject of a new opera to be performed at Sydney Town Hall this month. We spoke to its director about the production and Milk's legacy.
Drew Sheldrick

2 Sep 2016 - 2:33 PM  UPDATED 2 Nov 2015 - 11:43 AM

Just two days before he was shot and killed, American gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk saw the San Francisco Opera's production of Tosca. A huge opera buff, Milk's own journey from camera salesman to city supervisor and leader of America's burgenoning gay rights movement wouldn't have seemed out of place in a Puccini production - particularly his dramatic assasination by fellow city supervisor, Dan White, in 1978.

It was a parallel not unnoticed by Gus Van Sant in his 2008 film, Milk, based on Harvey Milk's life. Opera also seems the right medium for another retelling of his story, this time at the Sydney Town Hall with Harvey Milk - The Opera in Concert.

"It seems like the perfect medium to capture his life. It was so operatic, his story, and he was so passionate about the art form, " director Cameron Lukey explained.

Lukey produced the Australian premiere of the production at Melbourne's Midsumma festival earlier this year, with help from the Melbourne Gay & Lesbian Chorus. This time, it's the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir helping to bring Milk's story to the stage.

"There are professional choirs we could approach but I thought this story will mean something to that group of people. Every one of them relates to it in some way," Lukey said.

"I think it’s really powerful and I think it’s something that Harvey [Milk] would have liked."