INO 2023 - 24 | New Season Announcement

Monday, 19 June, 2023
202324 Opera Season

Irish National Opera, Ireland’s only Olivier Award-winning opera company, has announced details of its 2023-24 season of seven operas. The productions will be seen in opera houses in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, London and Fribourg in Switzerland, with other touring work that can be seen in Galway, Dún Laoghaire, Dundalk, Clonmel, Letterkenny, Navan, Ballina (Co. Mayo) and Birr.

The repertoire features works from the largest scale to the most intimate. The new production of Richard Strauss’s Salome, based on the Oscar Wilde play, and with a cast of 17, is at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin on Tuesday 12, Thursday 14 and Saturday 16 March 2024 with, earlier in the month, a late afternoon concert performance at the National Opera House in Wexford on Sunday 3. And Breathwork, a new work by Éna Brennan (aka Dowry) is a statement of horror and protest in response to the destruction of our environment. As part of Dublin Theatre Festival it will have six performances a day in the Cube at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin to audiences of eight at a time from Friday 28 September 2023 to Saturday 30.

INO artistic director Fergus Sheil says, “What we’ve put together for our new season is a series of extraordinary opera experiences large and small, old and new, in theatres and on VR headsets and available to audiences throughout Ireland. The season follows up on the great success of last March's luxurious and luxuriant production of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier. This year we have his earlier searing setting of Oscar Wilde’s play, Salome. The premieres of Salome and Der Rosenkavalier are separated by just over five years, but the two works could not be more different in tone, intensity and musical effect. Our Salome is Sinéad Campbell-Wallace, who will become the first Irish soprano to sing the hugely demanding title role in one of the most chilling and disturbing operas of all time on a Dublin stage.”

The large cast also brings the return of singers from INO’s spectacular 2020 production of Strauss’s Elektra — Icelandic bass-baritone Tómas Tómasson as Jochanaan (John the Baptist), and Irish mezzo-soprano Imelda Drumm as Salome’s mother Herodias. German tenor Vincent Wolfsteiner makes his INO debut as her father-in-law Herodes.

The season includes new productions of two of the all-time most popular operas. Verdi’s La traviata opens at the National Opera House, Wexford, on Friday 17 May 2024, with five performances at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre from Tuesday 21 to Saturday 25, and two at the Cork Opera House on Tuesday 29 and Thursday 31. The five performances of Puccini’s La bohème are at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from Monday 20 November 2023 to Sunday 26 .

Each of these great works follows the highs and lows of the lives and loves of two of opera’s most touching heroines, Violetta in La traviata (Amanda Woodbury and Máire Flavin in our double-cast production), and Mimì in La bohème, starring the inimitable Celine Byrne, back to thrill Irish audiences in her favourite role. Director Orpha Phelan and designer Nicky Shaw return for their first tragedy with INO, having given the company brilliantly witty productions of two comedies, Rossini’s La Cenerentola and Donizetti’s Don Pasquale.

Fergus Sheil explains, “It’s been a long journey for INO to get Celine onstage as Mimì. This production was first scheduled for 2021, but then the lockdown intervened, and instead we livestreamed a concert performance and made a recording for Signum Records that’s available on CD and for streaming. It is really wonderful that now Celine is going to be able to move people all over again, but this time on stage.” The Roldolfo is Lithuanian tenor Merunas Vitulskis, and the Musetta is rapidly-rising Irish soprano Sarah Brady, returning after her recent INO success in Mozart’s Così fan tutte.”

Vivaldi was the composer whose work brought INO its first Olivier Award. The company now celebrates the brilliance of the composer’s operatic output through a new production of his L’Olimpiade, with a plot of tangled relationships and forbidden love set during the ancient Olympic games. Peter Whelan and the Irish Baroque Orchestra, a crucial driving force in all of INO’s Vivaldi productions, return, and the cast includes Irish mezzo-soprano Gemma Ní Bhriain, Chinese countertenor Meili Li, and Cuban-American mezzo-soprano Alexandra Urquiola. Fergus Sheil says, “Vivaldi’s operas give super-human acrobatic challenges for singers, and his L’Olimpiade is fittingly set against the background of the ancient Olympic games.”

L'Olimpiade tours around Ireland between Saturday 20 April and Tuesday 7 May 2024. It then moves to the Linbury Theatre of the Royal Opera House in London from Monday 13 to Saturday 25 May. The tour ends with three performances at the Théatre Equilibre in Fribourg, Switzerland, between Wednesday 29 May and Saturday 1 June. Our international co-producers are the Royal Opera House in London and Nouvel Opéra Fribourg.

Gounod’s Faust, for many years the most popular of all French operas, is loosely based on Goethe’s Faust. American tenor Duke Kim takes on the ill-fated title role of the doctor who strikes a terrible pact with the Devil. High-flying Irish soprano Jennifer Davis is his love interest, Marguerite. And American baritone Nicholas Brownlee is the supernatural power-wielding Méphistophélès. Faust, which is presented as part of Dublin Theatre Festival, has four performances at the Gaiety Theatre between Sunday 1 and Saturday 7 October 2023.

One of INO’s most innovative productions is its world-first virtual reality community opera, Finola Merivale and Jody O’Neill’s Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách. Reviewing the 2022 Kilkenny Arts Festival premiere in The Irish Times, Michael Dungan wrote, “Finola Merivale composed her spare, eighteen-minute score for two singers, small chamber ensemble and two amateur choirs. Its haunting power is as unforgiving as the story, a myth-like allegory of the relationship between humanity and the environment it endangers.” Out of the Ordinary can be seen in Galway (Thursday 13 July 2023), Birr (Monday 7 August), Dundalk (Saturday 17 September) and Clonmel (Friday 20 October), with more performances to be announced at a later date.

INO executive director Diego Fasciati says, “In addition to cementing INO’s work at the heart of artistic life in Ireland, we also go beyond the stage. We continue to expand our outreach and education programmes. And in the coming months we will continue to develop Isolde, an app we have created for the purpose of synching video projection with audio on your smartphone. This allows us to share screenings of opera in site-specific and unexpected contexts. Our goal is to develop Irish National Opera so that we can sustain the opera ecology in Ireland for the long term.”

INO also announced the new membership of the INO Opera Studio, the company's meeting ground and melting pot for rising talent in all aspects of opera making. The 2023-24 season lineup features sopranos Deirdre Higgins from Tubber, Co. Offaly and Megan O’Neill from Kerry, mezzo-soprano Madeline Judge from Waukee, Iowa, but now based in Dublin, tenor William Pearson from Swindon in Wiltshire, composer Alex Dowling from Dublin, conductor Medb Brereton-Hurley from Bettystown, Co. Meath, and director Chris Kelly, who was born in Co. Antrim but lives in Dublin.