‘How Aria?’ A Community Opera Project with First Fortnight and St. Patrick’s Mental Health Service

Thursday, 26 September, 2019
Stephen James Smith Photo By Babs Daly Grace Photography December 2017 Edit Bgd 3177

Irish National Opera are proud to be working with St. Patrick's Mental Health Service and First Fortnight to create a new operatic work which will be premiered at next January’s First Fortnight Festival.

Over the course of the next few months, participants from St. Patrick’s Mental Health Service will undertake a series of creative writing workshops led by Dublin poet and playwright Stephan James Smith - a poet central to the rise of the vibrant spoken word scene in Ireland today. These workshops will form the basis of a new libretto, completed by Stephen and set to music in a new concert aria by Amanda Feery (ABL Aviation Opera Studio composer). This work will be premiered in a performance as part of the First Fortnight Festival in the lecture hall of St Patrick’s University Hospital in January 2020. As Louise O’Leary, Advocacy Manager at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services explains, this will be the first time that St. Patrick’s has hosted an opera event. “We are very much looking forward to hosting the live opera performance during First Fortnight 2020: while we have presented many different cultural events over time, ‘How Aria?’ represents the first opera to be performed in St Patrick’s, which is very exciting.”

Music has the power to transform hearts and minds, unlock emotions and facilitate growth and healing. According to James Bingham, INO Studio and Outreach Producer, “fundamentally, opera is about telling stories. It’s extremely important to INO that the stories we tell have relevance for the people of Ireland. Through this collaboration, we hope to share the experience and stories of people in our community and give them a voice through opera”.

This will be the first time an opera features in the First Fortnight Festival, David Keegan, CEO of First Fortnight commented "We're delighted to include a brand new art form to our festival programme. As an organisation who actively challenge mental health stigma, we jumped at the chance of collaborating with an organisation like INO, who themselves work tirelessly to address the stigma associated with the opera through their outreach work. The benefits of creativity in health settings is well documented and the idea of producing an original piece of music in collaboration with St. Patrick's Mental Health Services and their service users was an opportunity not to be missed.”

Louise O’Leary further commented “The therapeutic benefits of cultural participation for our mental health are well-recognised, but this project reaches even further beyond this, offering St. Patrick’s Mental Health service users a really special opportunity to get involved in an art form that fewer people get to directly experience, and to create a unique, one-off piece which marks their mental health journey in a truly impactful way. Crucially, the project plays an important role in reducing mental health stigma by opening new perspectives and understandings on mental health experiences.”

You can sign up to our newsletter via the website to stay up to date with the project as we get ready for the premiere of ‘How Aria’ next January.

First Fortnight runs events around Dublin for the first two weeks of January. You can get more information about the festival on their website here.