The Priestess of Morphine

"They tried to burn me, to bury my words...". Pioneering queer Jewish poet Marie-Madeleine reclaims her history, in this intimate chamber opera from Tenth Muse Initiative.

‘The Priestess of Morphine’ will immerse audiences in scenes from the life of Baroness Gertrud Günther von Puttkamer, the dazzling socialite of the Weimar republic, and her nom-de-plume and alter-ego Marie-Madeleine, writer and poet, whose works were nearly erased from history by the Third Reich.

This opera stars rising sopranos and WAAPA graduates Jessica Taylor (Gertrud) and Ava Charleson (Marie-Madeleine), led by emerging director Rachel Doulton and producer Hannah Lee Tungate.

Running at just under an hour, The Priestess of Morphine balances surrealism and operatic grandeur in the tension between artist and muse. This contemporary chamber opera also features the talents of violinist Julia Watson, cellist Miranda Murray-Yong, and percussionist Thea Rossen. Newcomers and opera lovers alike will be surprised and delighted by this groundbreaking new production from Tenth Muse Initiative.

“They tried to burn me, to bury my words. They tried. They tried, but they failed.”

General Content Warnings: Sexual references, religious references, references to WW2 and Nazis, references to assault; references to drug use and addiction, visible needles and syringes, multiple depictions of addiction and injection; loud and sustained music.

Form and Style

The Priestess of Morphine is a short opera that runs for approximately 55 minutes. It features a small ensemble of talented musicians, including a percussionist, a violinist, and a cellist, along with two singers who portray the characters Gertrud Günther and Marie-Madeleine. The entire work is sung in a traditional operatic style, and the music is in the contemporary art music style.

The show is presented on a single set, which features a desk and chair, along with light set dressing that evokes a 1920s/30s aesthetic. This set is adaptable to various theatre formats, as the original production was developed in a black box style theatre. The seven scenes/movements depict Gertrud Günther and Marie-Madeleine’s story in a powerful and moving way, showcasing the skill of the singers and musicians.

This combination of music and singing style, along with the intimate set design, creates an immersive experience for the audience, drawing them into the world of Gertrud Günther and Marie-Madeleine.

The Priestess of Morphine is a unique and captivating opera that is sure to leave a lasting impression on its audience.

Community Engagement

Pride forums: Host a forum for local LGBTQIA+ pride groups, where we can get together and talk about issues, common experiences, and the importance of knowing our history. This will provide a safe space for community members to connect and engage with each other.

Meet the Artists: Host a Q&A after the performance so audiences can learn more about the performers or show. This will provide an opportunity for audiences to engage with the performers and ask any questions they may have.

Voice/Instrument workshops: Opera singing workshop with our sopranos, or a percussion workshop. These workshops will give community members the opportunity to engage with the performers and learn more about the craft of opera.

Masterclasses: Voice or Instrument masterclass with the performer – could engage with the local aspiring musicians, who would like to perform for feedback, more of a lecture style than the more practical workshop mentioned before. This will provide an opportunity for local aspiring musicians to learn from professionals.

Panel Discussions: Bring together a panel of 3-4 people to discuss a particular topic related to the show. Could include members from other local groups. This will provide a platform for the community to engage with each other and discuss relevant topics.

Poetry readings: Open mic session with poetry from the show, inviting local poets and writers to share their poems and stories. This will provide an opportunity for local artists to showcase their work.

Coffee dates with an opera singer: Community members can book a coffee date in a local cafe to have a drink and talk with one of our performers. This will provide an opportunity for community members to engage with performers in a more casual setting.

We are particularly keen to connect with the LGBTQIA+ community and believe that these engagement activities will provide a safe and welcoming space for community members to engage with the themes of the show and connect with each other.


Reviews from Priestess’ first season:

“Whether audiences are experienced connoisseurs, or opera newcomers, this show will stay with them far longer than its final bow.” – Bec Weldon, X-Press Mag – 8/10.

“It’s difficult to imagine any of these performances being bettered. Taylor and Charleson are all you could wish for in young opera singers and both sing with utter conviction and dramatic intensity over the entire range of voice….Doulton’s simple but effective direction complements Johnston’s similarly deft lighting….This Blue Room production from Hannah Lee Tungate’s Tenth Muse Initiative happily supersedes its exemplar in every way.” – Stewart Smith, SeeSaw Mag

“Superb acting and enchanting music enhanced this metaphor-rich experience of Sapphic madness, heart-breaking sadness, trauma, oppression and infinite longing.” “The presentation of one person split across two halves conjured concepts of gothic doubling laid bare against an elegant set …effective lighting and music, cleverly captured time, place and mood without detracting from the narrative.” “Those who enjoy tales of queerness, nearness and the darkness of bottomless drug spirals, would more than adore The Priestess of Morphine.” -Nanci Nott, ArtsHub – 5-Star Review

“The Priestess of Morphine distils Opera into its true essence – pure emotion. The truth is opera is K-Drama for the stage – you don’t need to understand every word to experience the emotion of the characters.” Bec Bowman, OutInPerth – 5-Star

Available Marketing Collateral

We have posters, flyers, social media tiles, which we can make adaptable to any format. We also have show images from the first production. We will have a short video that will work for social media sharing, and some longer ones for youtube or website sharing. We have short clips which are suitable for TikTok or Instagram reels. We also have educational posts with more historical info available. We also have vox-pops from opening night which can be used in a marketing video or TikTok/Reel.


Tenth Muse Initiative is the creative team who produced their first opera production, “The Priestess of Morphine,” during The Blue Room Theatre’s Summer Nights season 2023. All three main creatives – director Rachel Doulton, producer Hannah Lee Tungate, and soprano Jessica Taylor – are trained opera singers. Doulton, who has a background in theatre, previously worked as an assistant director on short operas during her time at WAAPA. Tungate has been producing classical music concerts since 2017. Taylor previously produced and performed in another queer opera, “The Cloak & Dagger” at FringeWorld 2021.

In addition to the main creatives, lighting designer Katrina Johnston has worked with a wide range of Perth production companies, including Third Culture Kids, Tempest Theatre, and multiple productions at The Blue Room Theatre. The rest of our musicians are each incredible performers in their respective instruments. Ava Charleson is a WAAPA graduate and emerging artist; percussionist Thea Rossen is an established performer, creator, and educator; Miranda Murray-Yong is an accomplished cellist; and Violinist Julia Watson who regularly performs with Perth Symphony, Australian Baroque, Fremantle Chamber Orchestra, and many others.

The success of our first season was a testament to the skills of our team, and we can’t wait to build on them. By touring we hope to bring our unique perspective and approach to a wider audience, and continue to push the boundaries of what opera can be.

Click here for video trailer



From November 2023


The ideal target market for "The Priestess of Morphine" would be those who appreciate a dramatic and emotional experience. It would appeal to fans of opera and theatre, but also those who have preconceived notions about opera, but are curious to give it a try. A 16+ Audience is recommended. Those who identify as LGBTQIA+ Overall, it is a show that would resonate with those who enjoy complex characters and beautiful music, regardless of their previous experience with opera.


55 minutes, no interval

Bump In

3 hours including tech time

Bump Out

1 hour


Weekly Fee: $14,000
Royalties: nil

Company Contacts

Contact Name: Hannah Lee Tungate

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Venue Format

The show was developed for a black box theatre, but can be adapted to suit any space.

Touring Party



Maximum performances a week: 5

Does this show require a remount? Yes

First Possible Performance: 2 hours after bump-in and tech

Minimum Break Between Shows: 18 hours (no two show days)

Minimum stage dimensions: 8m x 6m

Staging and Set Description: The set is minimal – just a desk, chair, set dressing. Musicians sit on stage to one side – vibraphone (1m-ish wide), 3 chairs and 3 music stands. All performers are on stage all the time. No set changes.

Lighting requirements: General wash & two specials. The band will be using battery sconces for their scores. One of the performers will be using a battery LED desk lamp. This will be supplied by the lighting designer.

Audio requirements: 3 live instrumentalists – cello, violin, vibraphone, no amplification needed. 2 Sopranos – no amplification needed, All musicians on stage at all times. No microphones needed.

Other technical notes: If a projector is available at the venue, the performance has subtitles to accompany it, and projections. Show can work without, but if possible a projector is good.