At the end of a long three days, Deborah Cheetham was in tears.
The opera diva had been hosting and performing at an economic conference at the Sydney Hilton. As she was leaving, an aide handed her a package containing a copy of the completed episode of The Two Of Us, featuring Cheetham’s relationship with her mentor, music teacher Jennifer King.
Sitting alone in a room to one side of the hotel ballroom, Cheetham watched the documentary on her laptop, and sobbed as she became overwhelmed by the emotions of the documentary.
I burst into tears, Cheetham says, only an hour after the viewing. I was so blown away and so moved by it. In fact, I am just overwhelmed. Thank goodness I was on my own when I watched it as I became very emotional.
It is about when you just know something. I already knew what my connection with Jennifer was and the significance of it but, because of the nature of it, you don’t sit around analysing it.
Seeing the revelations of how Jennifer felt and thought about me, none of it surprised me, but I feel so validated by it.
The Two Of Us is a new documentary series on SBS, based on the long-running column in The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Good Weekend magazine.
The series tells the stories of both sides of a series of relationships. In the case of opera star Cheetham, it explores the bond she has had since her schooldays with her music teacher Jennifer King.
King discovered the raw singing talent of the schoolgirl Cheetham, an Aborigine raised by a white Baptist family. The teacher helped the budding singer develop her voice and then forge a career in opera.
She also stood by in support when Cheetham came out as a lesbian, and then battled to be reconciled with her family.
I never came out to Jennifer, as I never had to, Cheetham says. The relationship goes beyond the necessity of doing that.
I am not an issue to Jennifer. She could always see what was inside me, which was music. Jennifer knows who I am, without everyone else’s interpretation and without their opinions.
Jennifer, along with music, has provided more continuity to my life than anything else.
The Two Of Us screens 2 August at 8pm on SBS.