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Biographica is a thrilling musical odyssey propelling audiences into the life and mind of a awed genius, Renaissance gambler and scholar Gerolamo Cardano, whose ruthless quest for fame, wealth and immortality are themes 

The Project

The life of Renaissance scholar Gerolamo Cardano, unfolds as one of the most riveting accounts in history, embodying themes as relevant today as they were 500 years ago. Cursed by an illegitimate birth in 2501 after a failed abortion attempt by his mother, Cardano was left abandoned.

Growing up with strangers and disfigured with carbuncles from a prevailing plague, he spent his early years in ill-health, poverty and hard labour until the age of seven when his father took him in as his personal footboy or servant.

Determined to rise above his sad and humble beginnings and despite a lack of education, Cardano set a career path as a writer, and in his early teens completed a treatise on the Earning of Immortality, and another on gambling and the best method of winning at games of chance. Entitled Liber De Ludo Aleae, this second treatise would become arguably his most famous work for the inclusion of ground- breaking discoveries on laws of probability.

A prolific author on varied topics, Cardano would also become a world-renowned surgeon, his medical expertise frequently sought after by royalty and rulers across Europe. He performed miracle cures, being the first to recognize allergens. As an inventor, he is responsible for algebra, the combination lock, and was the pioneer of sign-language.

Yet beyond his scholarly pursuits, Cardano’s personal life was filled with turmoil. Describing himself in his autobiography as “hot-tempered, given to women, cunning, sarcastic, diligent, and treacherous”, Cardano saw himself also as a magician and sorcerer, and

after squandering a small bequest he received from his father, turned to gambling to change his fortune. With his keen understanding of probability, Cardano was able to take advantage of his opponents, winning more than he lost. Being disposed to violence, he always carried a knife, and when he thought he was being cheated, was known to slash the face of his opponent.

As Cardano’s gambling activities took him further into a world of darkness and debauchery, the father of three saw the life of each of his children descend into tragedy, with his eldest and most beloved son jailed and beheaded for poisoning his wife, his daughter die of syphilis from prostitution and when his youngest son stole from him, Cardano turned him over to authorities to be banished after cutting off his ears in an act of rage.

Following a life of extremes that included celebrity, violence, and a jail term for heresy, Cardano was finally appointed a position at the papal court. It was here that he made his boldest move yet, predicting the exact date of his own death. This was a gamble that if successful, would give him the recognition he had always craved. It would be a feat that would immortalize his name in the records of time. v

Cardano remains one of the most beguiling and dysfunctional figures in history, who with a passion for gambling, sought to explain the universe through his obsession with numbers and blind faith in their power and magic – in an unceasing quest for fame.

when the world of fact and the world of the soul were intermeshed, when science meant leaps of faith and leaps of faith held great terrors for the soul. 


Additional Information


The PREPRODUCTION phase will see the completion of the libretto, music score and electro-acoustic elements accompanying the live performance of the music. It involves a collaborative process between composer, director and librettist. Thanks
to the support of our patrons from 2012 to 2015, the following stages have taken place: research of the subject matter, a series of workshops to develop the libretto to the second and penultimate draft, musical conceptualisation and the creation of musical treatments for the structure of the work. We gratefully acknowledge the support we have received from Julian Burnside AO QC, Paula & Rob McLean AM, Sherry & Tom Gregory, Jane Mathews AO and the Nelson Meers Foundation.

Time is now of essence. With BIOGRAPHICA now scheduled for ‘in development’ phase at Carriageworks by Sydney Chamber Opera in November 2016, the PREPRODUCTION phase which will see the libretto, music score and electro-acoustic elements finalised, requires support.


Conceived as a chamber opera with a duration of 120 minutes, Biographica uses a cast of 5 principle singers and 7 chorus singers, and a chamber ensemble of 14 musicians with electronic accompaniment. The musical style captures
the essence of Renaissance music through a contemporary lens. As Cardano’s life unfolds, these musical worlds of old and new intensifies, creating a thrilling perilous mayhem for the audience as they are witness to the journey and demise of an eccentric, wondrous soul.

In terms of production values, the staging can be either minimal or lavish depending on the vision of the director and budget. The main idea behind the small case and ensemble is that the project will travel well.

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