Spotlight on Irish National Opera

Friday, 23 October, 2020

by Sharon Carty

Spotlight on Irish National Opera - Episode 1

Spotlight on Irish National Opera is part of a wider “Spotlight on……” project, part of the Arts Council “Creative Schools” initiative, which shines a light on arts organisations around Ireland. As a Creative Associate on the Creative Schools scheme, I have been responsible for collaborating with my colleagues in Irish National Opera and Creative Schools in setting about shining this “spotlight” on Irish National Opera.

Maintaining a focus on the voice of the child is at the centre of the work we do on the Creative Schools programme and this ethos, combined with the current government heath restrictions, led us to this series of video interviews. The format provided an ideal way to give four brilliant young people the opportunity to make a personal connection with an established opera artist working in the area of opera that best matched their particular artistic interests. The series offers the interviewer, and the viewer, the chance to take a peek behind the scenes and learn more from a variety of professional opera artists connected to Irish National Opera.

We set about discussing how we would recruit our four young interviewers, and decided on the submission of a 60 second video from the applicants, explaining why they wanted to be involved in the project. We were blown away by the submissions, with lots of wonderful, enthusiastic videos from young people - the selection process took some discussion. Ultimately, we whittled it down to four fantastic students: Marianne Ni Dhochartaigh (writer), Lauren Doyle (writer), Donnchadh Hughes (composer), and Ileri Adetuburu (singer). Each of these students is in senior cycle in secondary school, and has an interest in an artistic discipline which is involved in opera. After some initial consultation with the students to get to know them a little better, we made the following pairings:

Marianne: Fergus Shiel (Artistic Director of Irish National Opera)

Lauren: Orpha Phelan (Opera Director)

Donnchadh: Brian Irvine (Composer)

Ileri: Paula Murrihy (Opera Singer)

Prior to to the interviews, which took place via Zoom, the students did lots of preparation, researching the artist they would be interviewing by reading about them online, learning about their career paths and their mentors, reviewing other interviews they had given, and watching footage of their work (whether as performer, director, conductor or composer). We explored different interview techniques and ways of asking questions, such as being specific with closed-ended questions, and asking open-ended questions to allow their interviewees the space to talk about themselves. In order for the students to get some practice before the real interview, we set up sessions with a “mystery interviewee” so they would have to deal with thinking on their feet, formulating questions quickly based on information they had just heard. We had good fun with this, and huge thanks go to James Bingham of INO and Tony McClean Fay, my Creative Associate colleague, who is curating the “Spotlight on…..” series, for their willingness to be our interviewee guinea pigs!

All four students learned a huge amount from their interviewee counterparts, and I was very proud to work with them on this project. You can watch the videos via the Arts Council's You Tube channel with new episodes released each Friday so stay tuned!

A huge and heartfelt “thank you” to everyone at INO, the Arts Council Creative Schools team, and the four generous interviewees, Paula, Brian, Fergus and Orpha, for participating and sharing their wealth of knowledge! And of course to our four talented students for being such engaged and enthusiastic interviewers.