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14 Jun 2024

15 Jun 2024

16 Jun 2024

Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Bennelong Point, Sydney

Running time

Approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.


Performed in English.

Please note

This production contains strong sexual references and explicit language.

The moment and the movement that changed Australia.

As his body hit the water, few heard the impact. But the ripple effect of the murderous act defied natural law and swelled to seismic scale.

It’s half a century since the infamous drowning of Dr George Ian Ogilvie Duncan; a moment in time that triggered an alleged police cover-up, a city-wide scandal, national outrage, a Scotland Yard investigation… and a glaring absence of convictions.

Most importantly, Dr Duncan’s death led South Australia to decriminalise homosexuality, ahead of the rest of the country.

Watershed, a ravishing new operatic work and the hit of the 2022 Adelaide Festival, is a collaboration between some of Australia’s most acclaimed creative talents.

Helpmann Award-winning playwright Alana Valentine and author Christos Tsiolkas (The Slap) have created a searing, no-punches-pulled libretto. Brisbane composer Joe Twist’s score is luscious and ultimately transcendent. And Australian theatre and opera legend Neil Armfield’s production is as deeply felt as it is thrillingly physical.

Written as an oratorio, Watershed turns the illicit into the sacred, through powerful choral music, solo voices and dance. It fuses inquest transcripts, press clippings, private correspondence and monologues spanning five decades of anti-gay violence, and pays tribute to the unassuming academic whose untimely death lit a fuse.

See for yourself why Watershed was met with five-star reviews, a sold-out premiere season, and rapturous, teary standing ovations at every performance.

“If I could, I would give it six stars. ★★★★★”


Cast & Creative

Composer & Orchestrator
Joseph Twist
Alana Valentine & Christos Tsiolkas
Associate Director
Cheryl Pickering
Set & Costume Designer
Ailsa Paterson
Lighting Designer
Sound Designer
Jane Rossetto
Video Designer
Sean Bacon
Lewis Major
Historical Consultant
Tim Reeves
Mick O’Shea/Cop/Lawyer
Lost Boy
Macon Escobal Riley

Opera Australia Orchestra
Opera Australia Chorus


The fascinating history behind Watershed

The tragic death of Dr Duncan triggered a movement, leading to monumental law reform for the gay community.

Find out more
Overture Dining at the Sydney Opera House

Enjoy dinner before the opera

Overture Dining at Sydney Opera House

Allow us to make your dinner reservation for you: at Overture Dining in the Northern Foyer of the Joan Sutherland Theatre. You’ll be served a three-course menu for just $97.

See the menu