A contemporary opera

on war, love and hope


Music Score by: Tassos Ioannides

Libretto by: Deborah Parsons

Directed by: Alkinos Tsilimidos



Appearing: Caitlin Spears, Berna Anil, Irini Tzanetoulakou - a cast of 12 singers/actors


Women in War is a contemporary opera in English, with two songs in Turkish and one song in Greek. A 110-minute large scale work combining a symphonic score, a chorus as commentator/observer, with dramatic music and movement as in ancient Greek drama, a cast of international artists deliver a work of truly culturally diverse synthesis. 


A work that blends musical styles, rhythms, cultural nuances and emotional expressions, it delves into the contrasting mindsets of three women protagonists - an Australian nurse, a Turkish mother and a Greek war widow.  Using a cinematic approach, the narrative unfolds in 21 scenes, deviating significantly from the traditional opera form. 


Set during the Gallipoli Campaign/Battle of Çanakkale in 1915, the drama takes place on the Gallipoli Peninsula and the Greek island of Lemnos. 


The actions of all three women are driven by love.


Love underpins every choice they make, everything they do.


Women in War touches on some powerful themes – prejudice, revenge, hate, loss, grief, love, sacrifice, forgiveness. The story reflects the suffering of the forgotten victims of war, of those who are left behind: women. In order to survive, women need to challenge their traditional roles. They must run the businesses and work the land. They must raise and protect their children alone, while enduring their own pain and loss with fortitude.



The Story 


Three women. Three cultures. One voice.


Clarice a patriotic, albeit naive, Australian nurse is keen to “do her bit” for king and country. She also eagerly anticipates seeing her fiancé Ernest, based on the island of Lemnos. Ernest is furious with Clarice for joining up. War is no place for a woman! Clarice is shaken by Ernest’s reaction and by his cynicism. Gone is the fervent, committed soldier she once knew. Confronted by the brutal reality of war, Clarice soon becomes disillusioned herself. The couple make up, and when Clarice finds she will be sent away, they decide to marry on the island. The story of Clarice and Ernest is inspired by the true story of a couple who married on Lemnos during the Gallipoli Campaign/Battle of Çanakkale in 1915.


Yeliz has travelled from Anatolia to the Gallipoli Peninsula to find her only son Metehan. Her husband, wounded by the Greeks two years earlier in the first Balkan War, has just died. She does not want to lose Metehan too. She will do whatever it takes to save her boy.  When Yeliz is refused access to the battlefields because she is a woman, she cuts off her hair and disguises herself as a water boy. As she searches for Metehan among the dead on the battlefields, she is shocked by the senseless waste of human life.  Found badly wounded by Ernest, Metehan is taken to the Australian hospital on Lemnos. Yeliz gives herself up as a prisoner of war and is taken to Lemnos, where she reveals she is a woman in search of her wounded son.


Polyxeni is a Lemnian war widow.  Her husband was killed in the first Balkan War, leaving her alone to run the local café and bring up her daughter Myrina. With few young men left after the war, a dowry is Polyxeni’s only chance of finding Myrina a husband.  While Polyxeni welcomes the money she makes from the soldiers in her little café, she does not trust them around her daughter, especially the lascivious Orderly. Clarice helps Polyxeni by finding Myrina work at the hospital.


Yeliz finds her son at the hospital in Lemnos. She soon realises that Metehan and Myrina have fallen in love.  How can Yeliz and Polyxeni, overcome their enmity and distrust and come to terms with their children's love for the 'other'?

While love conquers all, sometimes fate has other plans in store...


While Women in War is a tragedy - the men die, the women are left behind – it is ultimately a story of hope and reconciliation. If these three women can put aside their differences, then why can’t we?


"Perhaps it's time that women took control

Let's see how these three women of Troy

Behave when love and loss and death alloy"



- Chorus, libretto excerpt