Opera Therapy

50 minute documentary; completed September 2005.


OPERA THERAPY documents the therapeutic journey of four people who have battled with cancer as they experience the transformative power of self-expression while creating an opera based on their personal stories, under the guidance of talented music therapist Emma O’Brien.

Mary is a 50 year old Maltese woman who is four years post bone marrow transplant for a very rare form of lymphoma; Lisa is a 33 year old Greek woman with acute leukaemia who is a mother of four and was only two weeks post bone marrow transplant when she embarked on this project; Bruce is a 53 year old man who has both terminal bone cancer (multiple myeloma) as well as multiple sclerosis, and Dianne is a 54 year old woman who shares her stories both of experiencing breast cancer herself and caring for her daughter Marla who died two weeks into the project from relapsing acute leukaemia.

The documentary filming took place throughout the creative process, displaying the innovative methods of composing used by Emma to tap into the participants’ innate musicality and bring their stories to life as an opera. The subsequent performance of the opera was made possible by the involvement of the creative team from the More Than Opera opera company, and its therapeutic effects on the participants are obvious.


  • Silver Plaque at the 2006 HUGO Awards/ Chicago International Film Festival (in the category of Documentary: Arts/Humanities)
  • Best Documentary Feature at the 2006 Independents’ Film Festival (USA)
  • Winner of the Chris Statuette in the Arts category at the 2006 Chris Awards (USA)


  • Mary Doggett-Williams, Dianne Graham, Lisa Kanidiadis & Bruce McCulloch
  • Emma O’Brien – music therapist/composer
  • David Kram – musical director of the opera.


  • Editor – Sioux Currie
  • Cinematographer – Joe Ghoukassian
  • Sound – Jonathon Lee & Nigel Derricks
  • Writer /Director – Traicee Evison-Griffith
  • Producer – Fiona Cochrane
  • Produced with the assistance of the Australian Film Commission & SBS Independent.