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Things Are Changing For Australia's Coolest (Expecting) Opera Mum

9 February 2016 | 12:30 pm | Annelise Ball

"It's marking the end of an era in my life."

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"It's my last tour before life takes a sharp turn, it's my last one as a childless person!" says the pregnant Miller-Heidke. Husband, guitarist and father-to-be Keir Nuttall will join her on stage, while promising indie-babe Ayla will open. "I'll be just me and Keir on guitar, playing stripped back, which is the way I prefer to tour these days. We've got more freedom that way, and the songs can really shift each night, which keeps it very interesting for me."

"I certainly noticed myself the dialogue around Australia Day has really shifted, partly about what the January 26 date really means to Indigenous people..."

Performing with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra at MONA FOMA kept Miller-Heidke super interested. "We had the most incredibly beautiful arrangements bringing out things in my songs I hadn't noticed myself. The power of the orchestra behind us was electrifying." Video projections, including full-frontal nude imagery, distinguished the performance as Miller-Heidke's very first with a few cheeky Adults Only moments. "It was awesome, my first concert with a nudity warning!" she laughs. "The show was thrilling, a little under-rehearsed in a good way, just like jumping off a cliff."

Her fully clothed performance in The Rabbits, based on a children's book about colonisation and dispossession, previously earned Miller-Heidke a lame trolling by keyboard warrior Andrew Bolt. "That was way better than all the five-star reviews," says a triumphant Miller-Heidke. "A lot of my heroes, like Benjamin Law, Marieke Hardy and Clementine Ford have been subject to his angry blogs, so I'm very proud to have joined this elite group." Having composed the score, Miller-Heidke can take further credit for the show's success. "It's ostensibly a children's opera, but we've had mostly adults coming, so it's appealed to a broad range of people," she says. "We've won four Helpmann Awards and we're going into our fourth season, which is unusual for a new production."  Milller-Heidke agrees that perhaps the zeitgeist on Australia's dark history of colonisation and dispossession is changing for the better. "I certainly noticed myself the dialogue around Australia Day has really shifted, partly about what the January 26 date really means to Indigenous people, and I think that's great."

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If she wished, Miller-Heidke could test the waters of this theory when hitting some out-of-the way spots on her tour. Outer eastern suburban Melbourne is getting some serious Miller-Heidke love, with one show at the Montrose Town Centre already sold out, and tickets to Upwey's Burrinja Cultural Centre gig no doubt getting scarce. "It's really fun for me to play smaller places I've never played before," she says. "Sometimes these smaller places have gorgeous theatres or converted art deco places, so my manager is always on the lookout for these type of gems to play in." Finishing the tour at Port Fairy Folk Festival, then onto the Brisbane season of The Rabbits, Miller-Heidke will then spend the rest of the year bringing up the baby. That's why this tour is so extra special for Australia's coolest opera mum. "It's marking the end of an era in my life."