The Stars of Tomorrow, Today: INO Announces the 2020/21 ABL Aviation Opera Studio

Wednesday, 14 October, 2020
ABL Opera Studio 2021

Five new artists have joined ABL Aviation Opera Studio, Irish National Opera’s studio mentoring programme.

The new arrivals for the 2020-21 studio are soprano Rachel Goode, mezzo-soprano Aebh Kelly, bass-baritone David Howes, director Davey Kelleher and répétiteur Luke Lally Maguire. Three artists from the 2019-20 studio — soprano Kelli-Ann Masterson, conductor Elaine Kelly and composer Amanda Feery — have stayed on for a second year.

Members of ABL Aviation Opera Studio are involved in Irish National Opera’s productions, both main-scale and touring. They sing onstage in roles or in the chorus, understudy lead roles – enabling them to watch and emulate great artists at work – and, for non-singing members, they join in the world of opera rehearsals as assistants. Members also benefit from individual coaching, masterclasses and mentorship with leading Irish and international singers and musicians.

Ali Ben Lmadani, CEO of ABL Aviation, says “We are delighted to be supporting the innovative ABL Aviation Opera Studio artists for the second consecutive year. We strongly believe in the unique work of Irish National Opera and consider this partnership to be an essential part in the development and training involved in producing world-class Irish opera artists. We are pleased to have a partner with a shared vision. Innovation is a core value of ABL Aviation and this is echoed at INO.”

INO’s artistic director Fergus Sheil adds “the company is passionate about supporting the careers of Irish opera artists and it was gratifying to see such a high number of candidates applying for this year’s programme. Our three-year partnership with ABL Aviation has already had a tremendously positive impact on how we have been able to enrich and grow the programme. The studio’s work has become even more important in the world of Covid-19, which has seen swathes of cancellations across all kinds of cultural activity. The losses are particularly keenly felt in the world of emerging performers, and the opportunities facilitated by ABL Aviation Opera Studio are more valuable and valued now than ever before.”

The new studio’s first tour, Opera Fireworks, features sopranos Kelli-Ann Masterson and Rachel Goode, mezzo-soprano Aebh Kelly and bass-baritone David Howes, all partnered by the experienced répétiteur and accompanist Richard McGrath, a regular collaborator on INO’s opera productions. The tour will visit Dún Laoghaire (Pavilion Theatre, Tuesday 17 November), Cork (Triskel Christchurch, Thursday 19, lunchtime), Tralee (Siamsa Tíre, Thursday 19, evening), Limerick (Lime Tree Theatre, Friday 20) and Waterford (Theatre Royal, Saturday 21, afternoon and evening). The audience capacities for these socially-distanced performances will be strictly limited in line with prevailing health guidelines.

The singers of ABL Aviation Opera Studio 2020-21 have already had masterclasses with renowned mezzo-soprano and Metropolitan Opera star Tara Erraught in the Goethe-Institut Irland. Elaine Kelly and Davey Kelleher are also involved in a major new INO project, 20 Shots of Opera, which will be streamed online from Thursday 17 December. 20 Shots of Opera, which will be filmed in Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre, is one of the biggest single-event commissioning projects in Irish musical history and will feature 20 short new operas by 20 different composers, with subjects ranging from Beethoven’s letters about his laundry, food and servant problems to a marine biologist meditating “on the enigmatic figure of Libris Solar, an alchemical blend of human, non-human and neoprene”.

Luke Lally Maguire will be involved as assistant répétiteur on a number of INO productions throughout the season, and studio singers will also work on main scale INO productions, both as chorus members and in cover roles. Elaine Kelly and Davey Kelleher will also be working as assistant conductor and assistant director on a number of the season’s in-theatre shows.

Brenda Hurley, Head of Opera for the Royal Academy of Music, London, is the main vocal consultant for the studio, and will work closely with the studio singers both through online consultation and in person in a series of coaching weekends. Studio singers will also have regular sessions with INO coach Richard McGrath and participate in a series of visiting artist masterclass with internationally renowned artists. In addition to Tara Erraught, this year’s line-up includes Orla Boylan and Paula Murrihy.

The studio continues to benefit from its relationship with its cultural partners at the Goethe-Institut Irland and The Civic. In addition to the use of the Goethe-Institut Irland’s beautiful auditorium as a workshop space, studio members will receive subsidised places on an accredited A1.1 German language speaking course and the opportunity to work with German artists online. The partnership with The Civic will see the venue’s artistic director, Michael-Barker Caven, work with studio members on a series of workshops throughout the year and in online consultations.

Studio and outreach producer, James Bingham, said “I’m really delighted that the ABL Aviation Opera Studio has grown from strength to strength in tandem with the growth and development of Irish National Opera itself. It’s terrific to see so many of our alumni working not only in INO productions but also with other companies at home and abroad. Even in these challenging times, it’s clear that the future of Irish opera is a bright one.”