Friday 23 March 2018

Let's get it straight – opera is flush with talent

Not so long ago the future of opera in this country looked bleak. The proposed new Irish National Opera Company collapsed without producing a single production. Opera Ireland ceased operating at the end of 2010.

Why is it then that in the last few months we have had the opportunity to see more opera than ever in this country?

Cork Operatic Society presented Leoncavallo's Pagliacci in June. Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, presented by the new Irish company 'Wide Open Opera' was a triumph and ticket sales were up this year for Wexford Festival Opera.

Last month we had a feast of opera in The Gaiety with Northern Ireland Opera's production of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel and Lyric Opera transported us to Egypt with their production of Verdi's Aida.

'Opera Theatre Company' is on tour with Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte.

It is clear that there is an audience very hungry for opera and that there are practitioners eager to produce opera even in these harsh economic times.

A series of short opera productions entitled Opera Briefs presented by the Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM) in partnership with The Lir Academy at Trinity College Dublin was also recently announced.

Opera Briefs at The Lir will give us the opportunity to see the next generation of Irish opera singers this week, with follow-up productions in March and May of next year.

Led by some of Ireland's finest opera conductors, directors and designers, the cast is drawn from singing students of the RIAM, whilst stage management and technical theatre students from The Lir Academy will work on the set construction and costumes.

Conor Hanratty will direct three operas to open the season this week.

"What we have is three short operas (the longest of them is about 20 minutes long) by three different composers that we have put together as a night of opera. It's a nice way to get to know these works which might never be produced on their own," he says.

It certainly sounds like an interesting mix. Monteverdi's Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda is an operatic scene for three voices.

Something completely different after the interval is Gian Carlo Menotti's The Telephone which Hanratty is setting in the 1950s with a Mad Men feel to it. The Telephone is about a girl called Lucy who is obsessed with her telephone.

The final piece, Samuel Barber's A Hand of Bridge, concerns four people playing bridge and is the shortest of the three pieces, but in some ways it is the most complicated piece.

"As well as having to show them playing bridge, we also get to look inside their heads, we hear their inner monologues which become more and distracted and complicated."

Hanratty feels positive about the opera scene here: "I think a lot of people have been resourceful and I think the Arts Council has been hugely supportive to me and others."

Whether this support continues remains to be seen, but who knows, the future may be bright after all.

Opera Briefs at The Lir (December 3-5)

Met Live in HD Season – La Clemenza di Tito Mozart this evening at 6pm

Aedín Gormley presents Movies and Musicals (Sat 1-4pm) and Sunday Matinée (Sun 12-2pm) on RTÉ lyric fm.

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