Opera Club with Sharon Carty

Monday, 7 February, 2022
Opera Club

Over the last 5 months we’ve worked with Junior Cycle for Teachers through the Arts in Junior Cycle programme, and mezzo-soprano Sharon Carty, to deliver a series of Opera Club workshops that explore opera as an art form and its relevance to a range of subjects and experiences.

INO is delighted to be collaborating with Arts in Junior Cycle whose aim is ‘to inspire, support and empower Junior Cycle teachers to engage with and be enriched by the arts and learning.’ This partnership has been an interesting process and has enabled us to co-design a series of workshops that make links between opera and the classroom for artists and teachers.

Junior Cycle for Teachers supports the continuing professional development for teachers across Ireland and INO is delighted to be collaborating with JCT to see how exactly opera can be used in the classroom.

We caught up with mezzo-soprano Sharon Carty who has been leading the workshops to learn more about what was involved.

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Can you chat through the format of the workshops? How does Opera Club work?

We're using these workshops to do a sort of virtual tour around an opera house. Each session has a focus on a different artistic discipline associated with a previous INO opera production, for example costume design, singing, directing, composition, choreography. The first half of the session is spent in discussion with an artist in a relaxed interview format where the participants can ask questions related to their artistic practice or to the opera (which they've had a chance to watch online in advance). It's a fantastic opportunity for a real behind the scenes look at the various processes in building an opera from page to stage. For the second half of each session we then explore some teaching activities and ideas related to the opera for that session, and we have some discussion and exchange of ideas about how teachers of various subjects might use the material in a meaningful way in their classroom.

Online workshops have become very popular during the pandemic. Do you think they’ll continue and what benefits do you think the format brings? Do you enjoy working this way?

While I don’t think any of us would prefer an online format over in-person interaction 100% of the time, being able to work this way at a time when it was the only way to teach and learn safely has been a godsend. It does have certain advantages over in-person, in that it makes access to really high level content so much more accessible. We can just tune in, in the comfort of our own homes, no matter what part of the country we’re in. And because this way of working has become so much more common, there's a wealth of really excellent material on offer now. Going forward, as a facilitator as well as a learner, I hope that the high quality of online will remain an option, alongside the option of meeting up in person.

You have a background in teaching, how has that informed how you designed these workshops?

My background as an educator has certainly helped me to structure the workshops (co-designed with Michelle Geraghty from The Arts in Junior Cycle Team) in that having been in the classroom as a teacher, I'm aware of the type of material that is useful in a teaching context. I hope also, however, that my experience as an opera singer will have opened the door to how useful opera is as an art form pedagogically, particularly for cross-curricular teaching. Opera has so many distinct artistic disciplines which all come together to create the finished product, it's the perfect example of “Synthesis” in Bloom’s Taxonomy. It’s not necessarily the first thing that might come to mind outside of the Music room in a school, but opera can be a really fun and meaningful resource across the curriculum.

What impact do you think the workshops have had for participants in terms of their classroom work?

I hope that the opportunity to explore opera in this way will demystify the art-form to an extent that teachers will feel empowered to take the skills and information they've learned with us and apply the activities to other examples of opera and explore these with their students, as well as using the material and operas we've covered in the workshops. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for like-minded teachers to exchange ideas and be inspired by approaches from colleagues in other schools or subject areas. And lastly I hope it will gain opera a few new fans in both teachers and students alike!