Outreach Overview of 2021-2022 Season

Wednesday, 21 July, 2021
Montage of images from Horse Ape Bird, Paper Boat and Out of the Ordinary

From a brand new youth opera to a series of free pre-show talks - INO Studio & Outreach Producer, James Bingham shares what's in store for the Outreach Department over the next season.

‘Opera for all’ is a guiding principle at INO, can you talk more about the role INO’s outreach department plays in this?

Irish National Opera is, first and foremost, there to serve the people of Ireland. It’s extremely important we create operas that are relevant and interesting to the diverse demographic of the country. We, in our small team at Irish National Opera, can’t pretend to know the cultural tastes of even a fraction of the country, so it’s really important that we directly engage with communities across Ireland so we can run projects and produce opera for as many people as possible. Sometimes that involves removing barriers, (be those financial, geographic, cultural etc.) to more traditional repertoire. Sometimes it involves actively collaborating with communities to create new kinds of opera.

This is INO’s biggest season yet, can you tell us what you have planned for the outreach department?

Much like the rest of INO’s output, this year is a substantial step up in the reach of our outreach programme. A number of productions in this years’ programme include in them some of element of community participation. Alongside that, we’ll be offering smaller scale workshops, talks and events across in the country in conjunction with the company’s broader programme of activity. There’s something for everyone.

Out of the Ordinary just won the prestigious Fedora Digital Prize – what does that mean for the project?

Receiving this prize is huge deal for Out of the Ordinary. Not only do we have an additional €50,000 in funding, meaning we can bring the piece to even more locations and reach every corner of Ireland, but the prize also gives the project an international recognition and highlights what a world class organisation INO is. The project sees INO work with a number of different communities across Ireland to develop a brand new opera for virtual reality headset. I’ve sat in on a number of the creative workshop sessions we’ve been running with communities over the past 6 months to help develop this work. There’s been a ton of excellent creative material made by individuals across Ireland taking part in the project. Now the challenge comes to shape it into an opera!

Horse Ape Bird will be INO’s very first youth opera – can you tell us more about it and how many young people will be involved?

Horse Ape Bird is a brand new piece written by David Coonan and Dylan Coburn Gray. It’s a one act opera in three parts, based on the true stories of three animals, all known for their particularly human-like abilities. At the centre of this opera will be a large chorus of up to 40 young people. This is an incredible opportunity for young people in Kildare and Meath to take part in a professional opera production and perform alongside world class singers. We’ll be holding auditions for the chorus in the Autumn so keep an eye out for more info.

INO are working in association with Music for Galway to present Paper Boat, can you tell us more about all the partners you are working with this season?

Working in partnership with other organisations is really important to the outreach work we do. We’re always looking to introduce new audiences to opera and so many of the organisations we work with provide vital links to the community and connect us with willing participants. For Paper Boat we’ll be working in association with Music for Galway as part of the Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture Legacy Project. With Horse Ape Bird we’re producing with Music Generation Kildare, Music Generation Meath and Solstice Arts Centre. Out of the Ordinary sees us work the Civic in Tallaght, Conradh na Gaeilge and Music Generation Offaly/Westmeath as well as the wonderful Traction consortium.

What’s the difference between a youth opera and a community opera?

Youth opera has much more of a focus on performance. We ask a professional composer and librettist to write an opera that’s going to be interesting for the age group concerned to take part in as well as suitably demanding, both musically and dramatically. From there it’s about working with our team of young people to put on the very best performance of the opera that they’re capable of, whilst also having a ton of fun in the process.

Community opera is very different as we really don’t know anything about what the opera is going to feel like when we first start out. We work with communities to produce an opera that they’re interested in making and they feel just as much ownership over as any of the professional team involved. What’s really fun about working on community operas is how original a work can end up being. It’s not being created by people we usually see on our stages and I find that really exciting.

Outreach also extends to making all our productions more accessible, can you tell us more about how you are achieving this through the In Focus series and what’s planned for this season?

Absolutely. Outreach is quite a broad term for a variety of different kinds of work we do at INO. With our In Focus events, it’s not just about bringing new audiences to opera by providing a greater context to the works we’re showing, it’s also about providing our regular opera goers with a richer experience, so they can get more out of their trip to the opera. As part of our In Focus series we run talks both online and in person with cast members, key members of the creative team and academics with expertise on our operas to give the audience a well-rounded INO experience. Not to mention the fact that every In Focus event is for free!

Finally if anyone wants to learn more about any of these projects or indeed get involved, what the best way to get in touch?

Feel free to get in touch with us at info@irishnationalopera.ie or you can read about any of the project discussed on our website in the links below.