2020/21 Season Plans

Thursday, 1 October, 2020
Alice's Adventures

Like every individual and every company, Irish National Opera has been rocked by the shockwaves caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Much work has sadly been lost — three major productions by INO alone — but unexpected directions have opened up and new projects have also blossomed.

We have rescheduled two of our lost productions — Bizet’s Carmen and Rossini’s William Tell — for later seasons. And our goals are now to keep our ambitions high and our expectations realistic. We have no crystal ball. So we present our much-restructured plans through June 2021 in the full knowledge that public health measures may force changes and cancellations on us at any time.

Rest assured that we will always do our utmost to nurture our community of opera professionals and offer vital and relevant opera experiences, whether online or to live audiences in the theatre.

As ever, all this is only possible through the support of our artists and creative teams, funders, patrons and, most importantly, our audience. We are sure that, from three great Irish mezzos to the rising talent of the ABL Aviation Opera Studio, Brian Irvine to Gerald Barry, Vivaldi to Puccini, or 20 new operas commissioned and written during the pandemic, INO has something to give that you absolutely won’t want to miss.

Fergus Sheil, artistic director

Diego Fasciati, executive director

Watch Our season announcement

Brian Irvine and Netia Jones’s “stunning,” “thought-provoking” Least Like The Other, Searching for Rosemary Kennedy, a “triumph of a production,” first seen at Galway International Arts Festival in 2019, is like a test-case for the presentation of opera in2020. The work’s revival was originally planned for a tour to Wexford, Limerick, Navan, Cork and Dublin in early September. When that proved impossible a new version of the work, with pre-recorded orchestra and 360-degree, 16-channel surround-sound design, was created for Dublin Theatre Festival in September. But changing Covid-19 regulations forced a postponement. However, all may not be lost. If Dublin’s restrictions are lowered from Level 3 to Level 2, the world premiere of the sonically spectacular new version will take place later in October.

The rest of the company’s 2020 output mixes performances for live audiences and projects that will be available exclusively through live-streaming. INO joins forces with the Office of Public Works for the Mezzo Masterpieces series. Three of Ireland’s greatest living singers, mezzo-sopranos Tara Erraught, Paula Murrihy and Sharon Carty, feature in live-streamed concerts with orchestra from three stunning Irish heritage sites, Kilkenny Castle, Castletown House and Dublin Castle. The concerts will be live-streamed on Saturday 24 and Saturday 31 October, and Sunday 15 November, and all performances will feature a socially-distanced Irish National Opera Orchestra. This is a pay-per-view presentation with tickets priced at €15 for individual concerts, or €40 for all three.

The rising talents of the ABL Aviation Opera Studio 2020-21 — sopranos Kelli-Ann Masterson and Rachel Goode, mezzo-soprano Aebh Kelly and bass-baritone David Howes — present a sparkling programme of Opera Fireworks on a tour that visits Dún Laoghaire, Cork, Tralee, Limerick and Waterford between Tuesday 17 and Saturday 21 November. Their accompanist is Richard McGrath, and audience capacities at all venues will be limited in line with health guidelines.

The largest live undertaking remaining in 2019 is a series of concert performances of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio. INO’s production of Mozart’s first major German-language opera was lost to cancellation last May. The company’s witty, online Seraglio mini-series has been available for free online since July, and the December concert performances bring just a single change to the May cast. INO artistic partner Claudia Boyle is Konstanze, Dean Power is Belmonte, Sarah Power is Blonde, Andrew Gavin is Pedrillo and Jonathan Lemalu (replacing Wojtek Gierlach) is Osmin. INO artistic partner Peter Whelan conducts the Irish National Opera Chorus and the Irish Chamber Orchestra for performances in Dublin (Wednesday 2 December), Wexford (Saturday 5) and Limerick (Sunday 6). Audience capacities will again be limited in line with health guidelines, and the Dublin performance will also be live streamed.

Another Covid-19-related postponement — from last June — is Elaine Agnew’s community opera, Paper Boat, to a libretto by Jessica Traynor. This production, a partnership with Music for Galway and Galway 2020, is scheduled for performance at St Nicholas Collegiate Church, Galway, on Saturday 12 December. Again, audience capacity will be limited in line with health guidelines.

The year’s final project, 20 Shots of Opera, is also the most ambitious. 20 composers were invited during lockdown to write operas of five to eight minutes for a cast of one or two singers and orchestra of up to 11 musicians. INO artistic director Fergus Sheil explains, “I wanted a project that would involve a huge array of Irish talent. Composers, writers, singers, instrumentalists, directors and designers. But one where everybody would work in small groups or on their own. Something that would be both small and large at the same time. Something that would be resilient as a project and not easily fall victim to the fluctuations of future circumstances. I think of it as a huge, collective act of creativity and defiance.” He adds, “We will be filming the operas in different spaces around the Gaiety Theatre, a venue which has been central to opera in Ireland since the late 19th century. Of course its strongest association is with traditional grand opera. 20 Shots of Opera is a chance to re-imagine opera within this hallowed space. It feels a bit subversive. It’s like the artists have taken over the venue and are turning it inside out. We have an astonishing roster of singers, including INO favourites Gavan Ring, Claudia Boyle, and Naomi Louisa O’Connell, and notable new relationships for INO with Sinead Campbell Wallace, Anne Marie Gibbons, Gyula Nagy, Mairéad Buicke and others. The series director, Hugh O’Conor, is also working with the company for the first time.” 20 Shots of Opera, presented in partnership with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, will be available to stream, free, from Thursday 17 December.

INO has planned an ambitious line-up for the first six months of 2021, all events for a live audience, subject to prevailing health regulations.

January will see the members of the ABL Aviation Opera Studio 2019-20 present Tom Johnson’s 1972 minimalist classic, The Four Note Opera, a work which, amazingly, sticks to just four notes and which its composer has described as “Part absurdist, part minimalist, part satiric and part simple comedy”.

Spring will see another of opera’s great favourites enter INO’s repertoire. Puccini’s heart-breaking La bohème stars Celine Byrne as Mimì and Anna Devin as Musetta. The new production is directed by Orpha Phelan and designed by Nicky Shaw, the duo who brought us last season’s magical, Irish Times Irish Theatre Award nominated production of Rossini’s LaCenerentola. La bohème will be seen in Wexford, Dublin, Limerick (a concert performance) and Cork.

In 2019 INO presented Griselda, the first-ever production of a Vivaldi opera in Ireland. Next up is the composer’s Bajazet, the first of two co-productions with the Royal Opera House in London. Bajazet, with Edward Grint in the title role, and mezzo-sopranos Niamh O’Sullivan and Rachel Kelly as Asteria and Irene, features the Irish Baroque Orchestra conducted by INO artistic partner Peter Whelan. The director and designer, both making INO debuts, are Adele Thomas and Molly O’Cathain. The first night of Bajazet is in Navan, and the production will tour to Letterkenny, Sligo, Limerick, Galway, Kilkenny and Dún Laoghaire.

The world premiere production of Gerald Barry’s Alice’s Adventures Under Ground in London last February won high plaudits for being “brilliant in every surreal detail,” having “tunes coming out its ears” and being “much enjoyed by children, some young enough to interact without any encouragement”. The work’s Irish premiere is INO’s second co-production with the Royal Opera House. Antony McDonald’s mind-bogglingly imaginative production, with INO artistic partner Claudia Boyle in the title role, will be seen in Wexford and Dublin in May.

June will bring the world premiere of an INO commission, Amanda Feery’s A Thing I Cannot Name, to a libretto by Megan Nolan. The work, which tells of three women, all different, connected only by the intensity of their wildly dissimilar desires, will be the culmination of Amanda’s two years as a member of the ABL Aviation Opera Studio.