My Opera Job - Sarah Halpin

Wednesday, 1 January, 2020
Sarah Halpin

As we turn to the internet in our time of isolation, now seems as good a time as any to introduce you to....well, me...Sarah Halpin, INO's Digital Communications Manager. Curious as to what that entails? Read on and find out more about #MyOperaJob

Can you describe your job in a nutshell?

It's pretty hard to describe what I do in one sentence, but, basically, I look after everything that INO does in the digital space. Whether that's creating INO's social media content, managing our website, producing online streams of our productions, facilitating radio broadcasts or exploring new ways to present or promote opera in the digital world. It's hugely varied, challenging and very rewarding.

How did you get to be working in opera?

I don't remember a time when opera wasn't on my radar. Both of my parents were music teachers, my dad is an avid opera fan, and I have been involved in classical music all my life. I studied classical double bass in London and worked for a number of years as a freelance bass player there before returning home to Dublin. Throughout my career my favourite jobs were in the opera. The perspective of opera you get from the orchestra pit, is so different to what you see from the auditorium or even experience on stage as a performer. And I loved every minute of it. When I re-trained in digital communications, a job in opera was the perfect crossroads of my old and new careers. Lucky for me, the stars aligned, INO came into existence at just the right time and here I am.

What does an average day in your job look like?

There is no average day in my job, every day brings something new. But most days are behind a screen of some sort, whether it's the computer in the office, or my phone when I'm out and about. If we're in rehearsals I might be in the rehearsal room or in the theatre, creating content to share the opera experience with our online audiences and get them excited for the production. If not, I'll be in the office, planning, creating and publishing.

What’s the most challenging thing about your job?

Logistics. Pinning down what's happening when, who you need to engage to create content and finding space in the jam packed schedule to make it all work. Opera rehearsal rooms are dynamic places, so things often change from one day to the next. Plans need to be adaptable and able to easily slot into changing situations. As we're a relatively new company, we work with different teams all the time, so there's an element of getting to know the teams and how they work with each new production. But with each opera, we're learning from previous experiences which makes the process easier each time.

What’s the most fun thing about your job?

The people I work with. We have an amazing team at INO, both in the office and in the various production and creative teams we work. No matter the challenge, there's always a smile and a joke to go with it. It's a privilege to work with people who bring such dedication, positivity and artistry to their jobs.

What’s one thing about your job people mightn’t expect?

Social isn't simple. When you're creating social media content on behalf of an organisation, I think people can underestimate the level of investment that goes into creating that content. Social media is a constant balancing act between having sufficient planned content to ensure there's something of interest going out every day and being poised to react to those unforeseen circumstances (Coronavirus anyone?) as they arise. There's a huge amount of research and work required to publish consistent content and also a pressure on social media managers to always get it right whilst also being creative. Shout out to all the amazing social media managers working on behalf of Irish arts organisations right now who are doing an amazing job of publishing uplifting content in these strange times.

What’s your favourite thing about working in opera?

The music, the music and the music. If my all time favourite thing in the world to do is sit behind a bass in an orchestra pit playing Puccini or Verdi, my second favourite thing is sitting in an empty auditorium during tech week listening to the final rehearsals before opening night. No matter what the piece, getting to experience the music in that moment is a true privilege.

What’s your favourite opera?

Ah now here, I know I wrote these questions but that's too hard.

Actually, I know it's cliché, but at a push I'd say La bohème by Puccini. I had an amazing experience early in my double bass career touring this production with Opera Theatre Company and I literally cried every night during Colline's Vecchia Zimarre. It has a soft spot in my heart ever since.