Tuesday 29 June 2021

From rare Vivaldi to Strauss' Elektra outdoors: Irish National Opera announces its ambitious new season

Giselle Allen takes the title role in Richard Strauss' Elektra with Irish National Opera this Summer
Giselle Allen takes the title role in Richard Strauss' Elektra with Irish National Opera this Summer

Formed in 2018, Irish National Opera's first two years of operation produced 72 performances of 14 different operas in 24 Irish venues, and then 2020 happened with lockdown coming right in the middle of rehearsals for a new production of Bizet's Carmen. Nothing daunted, the company produced Mozart's Seraglio as an imaginative on-line mini-series, as well as 20 Shots of Opera, 20 short contemporary operas all produced within six months, and much else besides.

Now the company has announced its plans for the coming year, combining filmed productions with both outside and inside performances. The headline news will, inevitably, be the assumption of the title role in Richard Strauss' Elektra by Belfast-born soprano Giselle Allen in a production being staged in August outside in Castle Yard, Kilkenny presented in association with Kilkenny Arts Festival. The production is directed by Conall Morrison, and conducted by Fergus Sheil with a pre-recorded orchestral contribution. The cast also includes Máire Flavin, Imelda Drumm and Tómas Tómasson. Being played outside, one hopes they get good weather and yet Elektra on a warm and balmy evening seems wrong and you feel that constant drizzle and a nasty wind would be more suitable for the subject matter!

There are three films being featured during the year, Edwina Casey's film of Peter Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse, Amanda Feery’s A Thing I Cannot Name, a new filmed opera exploring experiences of female desire, with a libretto by Megan Nolan and Gerald Barry’s comic tour-de-force Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. This latter was originally planned as a live production for last season, but with the cast, sets, costumes and crew all available, the only way to get it done was as a film, with Claudia Boyle in the title role, Hugh O’Conor directs the film of Antony McDonald’s visually ravishing and production. 

The company's first live, indoor offering is Beethoven's Fidelio with Sinéad Campbell Wallace in the title role, Robert Murray as Florestan and James Rutherford as Rocco, in a new production directed by  Annabelle’s Comyn at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin.

As if that wasn't imaginative enough, in January 2022 things get really interesting as the company performs Vivaldi's 1735 pasticcio Bajazet (covering the similar ground to Handel's Tamerlano), directed by Adele Thomas with Italian bass-baritone Gianluca Margheri in the title role and Irish mezzo-soprano Rachel Kelly makes her company debut as Irene, plus James Laing as Tamerlano. Peter Whelan conducts the Irish Baroque Orchestra. The opera tours Ireland in January 2022 and then there is a run at Covent Garden's Linbury Theatre in February 2022. 

Finally, in March 2022 that cancelled production of Carmen comes back, directed by Paul Curran, conducted by Kenneth Montgomery with Paula Murrihy, Dinyar Vania and Celine Byrne. Then in June 2022, mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught is in the title role and Anna Devin is Elisabetta in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda, so sparks will be flying at Dublin's Gaiety Theatre and in Wexford and Cork. Tom Creed directs, Fergus Sheil conducts.

There is much else besides, including Elaine Agnew and Jessica Traynor’s new community opera Paper Boat which is a Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture legacy project being presented by Music for Galway, and INO’s first-ever specially-commissioned youth opera Horse Ape Bird by composer David Coonan and writer Dylan Coburn Gray.

Full details from the Irish National Opera's website.

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