Fresh from success at the Olivier Awards in London, where Irish National Opera’s production of Vivaldi’s Bajazet was nominated for Best New Opera Production and won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera, the INO has announced details of its ’22-’23 season. Over the next 12 months, the five-year old company is presenting more than 60 performances in venues around the country and abroad, an average of more than one performance a week over the whole year.
Launching the season at the Swiss Embassy in Dublin, artistic director Fergus Sheil said he was “tremendously excited to be bringing two lavish operas back to the stage in Ireland, Richard Strauss’s ravishing and opulent Der Rosenkavalier, after a gap of nearly forty years, and Rossini’s epic final opera, William Tell, one of the grandest of all grand operas, which was last seen in Dublin 145 years ago.”
Opera, he said, “is the telling of stories. Der Rosenkavalier is a story of complicated love and aristocratic decadence and, at the same time, a meditation on ageing in a world that’s like Downton Abbey on speed, with a score that includes some of the greatest sensually indulgent music ever composed. William Tell is a story of political oppression in Austrian-occupied Switzerland that ends in a successful insurrection. The larger picture and the more intimate personal relationships are memorably welded together with all the spectacle of a grand opera written for the 19th-century Parisian stage. The full opera that goes with the iconic overture is a glorious work.”
“Der Rosenkavalier is a story of complicated love and aristocratic decadence and, at the same time, a meditation on ageing in a world that’s like Downton Abbey on speed”
He described Puccini’s Tosca as “a political thriller centred on the sexual avarice of a head of police who manipulates artists and rebels with a shocking outcome. It’s a high-tension ride with a title role that Maria Callas famously made her own.” By contrast, Massenet’s Werther, based on the highly-influential early novel by Goethe, is “a deeply moving presentation of the archetypal joys, travails and tragedies of unfettered romantic love.”
The season’s two comedies, he said, “are highly-contrasted pieces. Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is a screwball comedy of comeuppance that pits age, money and power against agile youth and deception. Mozart’s Così fan tutte is a politically incorrect morality tale with an important message for anyone thinking to threaten the integrity of loving relationships. All set out through one of Mozart’s richest scores.”
The season’s three contemporary operas all probe into darker issues. Donnacha Dennehy and Enda Walsh’s The First Child, said Sheil, “delves into the complex underbelly of everyday life in modern Ireland as forgotten connections resurface and reignite buried feelings. Brian Irvine and Netia Jones’s Least Like The Other — Searching for Rosemary Kennedy investigates medical malfeasance and the dark secrets of a great 20th-century political dynasty to uncover the fate of a vulnerable young woman, Rosemary Kennedy, sister of JFK. And Finola Merivale’s Out of the Ordinary (As an nGnách) is a story of ecological migration, a story created for and with people living in Ireland, and using the cutting-edge technology of today in the country’s first virtual-reality opera. It is an opera that, literally, people will carry around on their heads.”
“It is an opera that, literally, people will carry around on their heads.”
The season welcomes back major Irish singers, including Celine Byrne (“Byrne could sing utter nonsense and make you believe it,” The Arts Review), Claudia Boyle (“an astonishing, mesmerising performance,” Gramophone), Paula Murrihy (“Murrihy’s Carmen is immaculate, at times snake- like, and her singing . . . is simply electrifying,” GoldenPlec), Anna Devin (“Anna Devin delivers a standout performance as the impassioned Pamina, her voice clear, resonant, and soaring with power,” The Arts Review), Niamh O’Sullivan (“bewitchingly beautiful, dark vibrant voice,” Süddeutsche Zeitung), Sharon Carty (“a mesmerising performance,” The Irish Independent) and Sinéad Campbell Wallace (“she is indestructible, stunning, thrilling,” Süddeutsche Zeitung).
There will also be company debuts by Majella Cullagh (“with Majella Cullagh faunting a to-die-for top register and providing accomplished and expressive singing throughout the title role,” BBC Music Magazine), Robin Tritschler (“Robin Tritschler, light and sweet of sound, made Un aura amorosa seem delightfully effortless” Opera), and Sarah Brady (“Sarah Brady made an impressive Susanna, her voice full-toned and rounded,” Opera).
There’s a distinguished roster of international guests, too, headed by Dimitri Pittas (“delivered an emotionally charged performance as Rodolfo that made you believe his utterances of love and the youthful confusions of this young poet” The Classical Review), Tómas Tómasson (“bass-baritone Tómasson is superb as Orest, his deep tone penetrating and unsettling,” GoldenPlec), Graeme Danby (“Graeme Danby’s sonorous bass voice as Bartolo proved surprisingly supple in his patter numbers,” Irish Examiner), Brett Polegato (“the richest singing comes from the fne baritone of Brett Polegato as the US Consul, Sharpless, the noble onlooker,” GoldenPlec), Patrick Kabongo (“stirring high notes and a generally lively vocal presence,” BBC Music Magazine), Milan Siljanov (“Milan Siljanov’s rock-like Collatinus provided a wonderful foil for Balejko, and Siljanov’s ‘never more shall we to be apart’ was heartbreaking,” Planet Hugill) and Paride Cataldo (“Paride Cataldo’s posturing D’Annunzio all but steals the show,” BBC Music Magazine).
Executive director Diego Fasciati commented on “the richness, variety and continuing expansion” of the company’s work since its launch in 2018. In addition to the productions announced today, he said, “we will continue to nurture the next generation of artists through our Opera Studio and we will roll out an expanded education and outreach programme. We’re proud to have been able to provide so much employment for our Irish National Opera Orchestra and Chorus and delighted to be working again with Crash Ensemble as partners. With an Oliver award to our name and seven nominations at this year’s Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards, we continue to garner plaudits and go from strength to strength.”
The season opens with Puccini’s Tosca (starring Sinéad Campbell Wallace in the title role, directed by Michael Gieleta, with sets and costumes by Gary McCann, and conducted by Nil Vendetti) at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from Monday 11 to Sunday 17 July 2022. The other Dublin-only productions are Rossini’s William Tell (Brett Polegato in the title role, directed by Julien Chavaz, with sets by Jamie Vartan, costumes by Severine Besson and conducted by Fergus Sheil) at the Gaiety Theatre from Tuesday 8 November to Saturday 12 November 2022 and Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (starring Celine Byrne, Paula Murrihy and Claudia Boyle, directed by Bruno Ravella, set and costumes by Gary McCann and conducted by Fergus Sheil) at Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from Sunday 5 to Saturday 11 March 2023.
Donnacha Dennehy and Enda Walsh’s The First Child (starring Sarah Shine and Niamh O’Sullivan, directed by Enda Walsh, set by Jamie Vartan, costumes by Joan O’Clery and conducted by Ryan McAdams) is at Galway International Arts Festival from Monday 18 July to Sunday 24 July 2022 and then on tour to Navan, Cork, Limerick and Tralee between Wednesday 14 and Sunday 25 September. Donizetti’s Don Pasquale (Graeme
Danby in the title role, Kelli-Ann Masterson as his nemesis, directed by Orpha Phelan, designed by Nicky Shaw and conducted by Teresa Riverio Böhm) tours to Letterkenny, Navan, Galway, Ennis, Dundalk, Kilkenny and Dún Laoghaire between Saturday 28 November and Sunday 11 December 2022, and to Bray, Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Tralee between Thursday 2 and Saturday 11 February 2023.
Massenet’s Werther (starring Paride Cataldo and Niamh O’Sullivan, directed by Sophie Motley, set and costumes by Sarah Bacon, conducted by Philipp Pointner) tours to Letterkenny, Navan, Galway, Limerick, Dundalk, Ennis, Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny and Dún Laoghaire between Saturday 22 April and Sunday 14 May 2023. And Mozart’s Così fan tutte (with Anna Devin, Sharon Carty, Benjamin Russell and Dean Power, directed by Polly Graham, set and costumes by Jamie Vartan, and conducted by the award-winning Peter Whelan) closes out the season with performances in Wexford, Limerick, Dublin, Galway and Cork, between Friday 19 May and Friday 2 June 2023.
Finola Merivale’s Out of the Ordinary (As an nGnách) (with Daire Halpin and Naomi Louisa O’Connell, directed by Jo Mangan and conducted by Nil Vendetti) will premiere in August during Kilkenny Arts Festival; performance dates will be announced when the festival is launched. The virtual reality opera will then tour widely, and the ultimate goal is for it to be seen in every county in the country.
And, internationally, the UK premiere of Brian Irvine and Netia Jones’s Least LIke The Other — Searching for Rosemary Kennedy (with Amy Ní Fhearraigh in the singing role, directed and designed by Netia Jones and conducted by Fergus Sheil and Brian Irvine) is at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio in London between Sunday 15 and Thursday 19 January 2023.