Find out more about Friday Opera Sessions

Wednesday, 3 June, 2020
Friday Opera Sessions

Opera lovers are invited to brighten their lockdown by joining Irish National Opera for a series of bite-sized sessions, with the voices of singers reaching out to them not from an opera house or concert hall, but directly from the singers’ own homes.

The Friday Opera Sessions, which kick off on both Facebook and YouTube at 5pm on Friday 29 May, are hosted by INO’s artistic director, Fergus Sheil. He will introduce the arias, chat with some of the performers, and pass on questions and comments as they come in live from viewers.

Fergus explains that “Here at Irish National Opera we are all too keenly aware of the effects of the sudden vacuum of live opera created by the Covid-19 pandemic. We have had to cancel the final two productions of our current season, Bizet’s Carmen and Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio.”

“In the absence of live performances for large audiences,” he said, “we have made our back catalogue of productions available online. And we have now embraced the challenge of linking musicians across borders to bring you performances by singers from our operatic family who share our determination to overcome the peculiar difficulties of performing together over the internet. Expect the results to have something of the freshness and edge of an operatic jam session. I’ll be chatting with some of the singers as we bring you some great operatic repertoire presented in a playful and relaxed context.”

INO Executive Director Diego Fasciati adds “Like other arts organisations in these challenging times, we are looking for ways to create interesting and unique experiences for our audience online. We already have five great productions and a gala concert available to stream. Our Friday Opera Sessions now add an intriguing route around Covid-19-generated restraints in an offering that can be accessed anywhere in the world from the safety of your living room or other lockdown location. And each of the sessions is linked to a particular strand of contemporary life.”

Opera buffs will recognise the line-up of gifted Irish singers involved in the series, most of whom will be familiar to fans of Irish National Opera’s work.

Episode one features Naomi Louisa O’Connell who won huge plaudits for her towering performance of the multi-faceted and highly virtuosic lead role in Brian Irvine and Netia Jones’s Least Like The Other, Searching for Rosemary Kennedy, which was premiered in association with Galway International Festival last summer. Carolyn Dobbin cast a real spell over audiences as the Witch in our much-praised co-production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel with Theatre Lovett and Abbey Theatre earlier this year. Aoife Miskelly was a winning Cherubino in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in 2018). Gavan Ring sang a memorable Papageno in Mozart’s The Magic Flute in 2019 — his last major outing as a baritone before he switched up to become a tenor. Rory Dunne is a current member of the ABL Aviation Opera Studio. And pianist Aoife O’Sullivan is a key member of INO’s music staff who has been heard in the pit for many INO productions.

Episode 2 covers a hosts of themes familiar to lockdown, singers include Dublin soprano Anna Devin, who mesmerised audiences as Pamina in The Magic Flute last year, tenor Julian Hubbard, who sang the both title role in the 2018 national tour of Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly (2019). Amy Ní Fhearraigh played a charming Gretel in our co-production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel with Theatre Lovett and Abbey Theatre, and in 2018 was a captivating Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro. Keli-Ann Masterson is a current member of the ABL Aviation Opera Studio and we are delighted to welcome Seán Boylan in his INO debut.

In Episode 3 we experience the pain of socially distant love as Madama Butterfly Rachel Croash waits for the return of her absent husband Pinkerton while father-in-law Georgio Germot Gyula Nagy imposes social distance on Violetta and Alfredo in La traviata. We also have two characters that are locked down. The Ottoman Sultan Bajazet Andrew Gavin has been captured by Tamerlano, Emperor of the Tartars in Handel’s opera, while in Bernstein’s Candide, the soprano Condgonde Emma Nash is trapped by circumstance in the home of the Sultan and Marquis where she has to put the bright side out in Glitter and be Gay. Meanwhile in Massenet’s Manon Chevalier Des Grieux Dean Power tells Manon about his dream of owning a home and garden with her.

Running every Friday until 26 June, the line-up of singers for later episodes includes (in alphabetical order): Claudia Boyle, Celine Byrne, Sharon Carty, Andrew Gavin, Emma Nash, Bríd Ní Ghruagáin, Luis Magallanes, John Molloy, Aaron O’Hare, Sinéad O’Kelly, Niamh O'Sullivan, Dean Power and Padraic Rowan.