5 Things We Love About INO - #2 Outreach

Tuesday, 24 January, 2023
5 Years Ino Outreach

What is outreach? Studio and Outreach Producer James Bingham takes a look at what outreach can look like, while taking us through some of the highlights over the past 5 years.

I’ve worked on classical music outreach projects for over a decade. During that time, I’ve become increasingly less certain what the word ‘outreach’ really means. Sometimes, it’s a form of education, such as in our In Focus talks which aim to contextualise the world of opera for audiences both new and returning so they get more out of their experience. This educative approach has been at times more theatrical, such as one of our first outreach projects, The Deadly World of Opera, which explained some of the terminology and conventions of opera in a staged show.

The Deadly World of Opera

Outreach can also be seen as a form of participation, allowing people to explore their own creativity by taking on some of the artistic roles involved in making an opera, such as the Habanera workshop where young participants staged a scene from Carmen in a day.

Habanera Workshop

More recently we invited our audience to sing with Irish National Opera through Sing William Tell. Our most ambitious project of participation to date was INO’s first youth opera, Horse Ape Bird where 16 young people took centre stage in a fully staged world premiere, written by David Coonan and Carys D. Coburn (as Dylan Coburn Gray).

Horse Ape Bird

Our participatory work has had a national reach with workshops accompanying our national tours of productions, such as our Sea Shanty workshops alongside The Lighthouse and a recent series of foyer performances alongside Don Pasquale in our student showcase.

Elsewhere, outreach has been about directly engaging with schools and universities. We’ve brought students to our performances and contextualised the work we do, most notably through our Magic Matinee and IFI screening of Alice’s Adventures Underground alongside an accompanying live interview with composer Gerald Barry. We’ve run workshops online for teachers through the JCT Opera Club and worked with several third level institutions including NCAD, UCD and RIAM amongst others.

Outreach, at its most radical, can be about co-creation. Bringing in the voices of those with no previous connection to opera and asking them to think creatively, taking on some of the roles required to create a new opera. This is where opera can be at its most relevant and progressive. This kind of work isn’t just about being inclusive, it’s about telling stories that matter to people today. It can be seen in our collaboration with First Fortnight on How Aria? where poet Stephen James Smith worked with users of St Patrick’s Mental Health service to create a libretto that was set to music by Amanda Feery

It’s also found in our most ambitious project to date, Out of the Ordinary/As an gNách: a three-year project where professional artists collaborated with over 100 non-professional artists from Tallaght to Inis Meáin to create the world’s first virtual reality community opera. Having run at Kilkenny Arts Festival, Dublin Fringe Festival and Yarn Storytelling Festival, the piece is due to tour nationally later this year and was winner of the Fedora Digital Prize.

Choral Recording on Inis Meáin for Out of the Ordinary/As an gNách

Community Reactions to Out of the Ordinary/As an gNách

We have achieved plenty more than what’s above these last five years, but in all of these instances, outreach has been about taking what INO does best, which is creating great operatic experiences, and finding ways to use this creativity as a force for good in the world. It’s an ethos I’m deeply passionate about and I feel privileged to be part of INO’s journey.

Written by James Bingham (Studio and Outreach Producer).