Out of the Shadows

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

From Rossini's William Tell to 20 newly commissioned operas: Irish National Opera reinforces its commitment to contemporary work as a result of pandemic restrictions

Irish National Opera: 20 shots of opera

For its 2020/21 season, Irish National Opera (INO) was planning a staging of Rossini's grand opera William Tell, the work's first production in Dublin since 1870! Fate had other plans and as a result of the pandemic, the production had to be shelved yet the company wanted to do something equally ambitious and involving a significant number of people. 

What they have come up with is 20 Shots of Opera, twenty newly commissioned one-act operas from a whole range of Irish composers, each opera for just one or two singers and an orchestra of up to eleven. The results are being presented in partnership with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, and the films will be streamed free on the INO website from 17 December 2020.

The composers involved present an eclectic mix, with works by Gerald Barry, Éna Brennan, Irene Buckley, Linda Buckley, Robert Coleman, David Coonan, Alex Dowling, Peter Fahey, Michael Gallen, Andrew Hamilton, Jenn Kirby, Conor Linehan, Conor Mitchell, Gráinne Mulvey, Emma O’Halloran, Hannah Peel, Karen Power, Evangelia Rigaki, Benedict Schlepper-Connolly and Jennifer Walshe. It is one of the biggest single-event commissioning projects in Irish classical music. And the subjects of the operas are equally eclectic, from Beethoven’s letters about troublesome servants and laundry dilemmas (Gerald Barry's Mrs Streicher) to a marine biologist’s meditations ‘on the enigmatic figure of Libris Solar, an alchemical blend of human, non-human and neoprene’ (Jennifer Walshe's Libris Solar).

The project has reinforced the company's commitment to contemporary opera, as artistic director Fergus Sheil explains, "We’ve already performed Donnacha Dennehy’s The Second Violinist [see Ruth's review], gave the world premiere of Brian Irvine’s Least Like the Other and Evangelia Rigaki’s This Hostel Life, and we are committed to staging Gerald Barry’s Alice’s Adventures Under Ground in co-production with London’s Royal Opera House next May. What we’ve done since lockdown began, though, has helped us reforge our identity with some unique projects, 20 Shots of Opera among them. I hope our existing and new audiences will embrace this and be as excited as we are about bringing these pieces to life."

In casting the operas, the company has also been able to take advantage of the sad fact that the pandemic has imposed restrictions in international travel, so that they have engaged world-class Irish artists and international singers based in Ireland to perform, including Orla Boylan, Claudia Boyle, Naomi Louisa O’Connell, Sinéad Campbell Wallace and Gavan Ring and such rising stars as Andrew Gavin, Rachel Goode, and Emma Nash.

Full details from the INO website.

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