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Opera in Ireland - general discussion thread on all things opera in Ireland

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  • Registered Users Posts: 4,282 ✭✭✭westtip


    The airport or the N11. That's about it. How did I end up living in the only opera-less country in Europe??

    Tis a question I ask myself on a frequent basis!!


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 143 ✭✭JonnyBlackrock


    An Irishwoman's Diary, from today's Irish Times:

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2010/0920/1224279261728.html


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,282 ✭✭✭westtip


    Yes andd several good letters in support of OTC since. Please add your tuppence worth by writing to the Irish Times and campaign letters to mary hanafin

    WE CAN’T SIT IDLY BY AND LET THIS HAPPEN AND WE NEED TO BE STIRRED INTO ACTION!

    On a personal level each and everyone of us should be sending a letter to Mary Hanafin to her email address maryhanafin@tcs.gov.ie

    She also has an online response form on her website: http://www.maryhanafin.ie/contact-me.html#onlineform

    Points to make:

    Opera Theatre Company is highly creative force in irish opera and the only national touring opera company we have.

    OTC is supported both sides of the border and by cutting out our own Arts Council Grant and winding the company up we are denying it the funding it gets from ARTS COUNCIL NI funding

    OTC employs six people on a full time basis in its management another six jobs on the scrap heap - how much will this cost the state, isn't it better to continue supporting this company from an economic point of view and keep these full time jobs in place.

    OTC contract employs irish creative jobs - professional singers, musicians, OTC is a place in which young Irish operatic talent can be nurtured and their young artist programme is giving rise to some prodigous talent. Are we going to deny even more opportunities to this young generation.

    OTC is our national opera company - ~A country the size of Ireland cannot support or create an opera company like Welsh National Opera out of thin air, we don't have the population and we don't have the resources so why get rid of something that is working.

    OTC is actually solvent! It has no defecits and is managed very well on a shoestring

    Mary Hanafin please listen to us. We need you to reverse the decision made by your predecessor.

    When OTC goes on tour it support local venues - When it performs at local venues like the Hawkswell (Sligo), Galway Town Hall theatre, GBS at Carlow etc - it is bringing people out spending money in the economy. A touring opera company generates movement of people in the economy.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,282 ✭✭✭westtip


    I sent this off to MH today: If others wish to follow suit please post a copy of your letters to her on this thread. I will keep you noted of any reply I get.

    Dear Minister

    I trust you have followed the public debate in the letters pages of the Irish Times about the structure of Opera in Ireland and the effects of the decision by your predecessor to disband OPERA THEATRE COMPANY and OPERA IRELAND and the “plan” to merge both companies into an IRISH NATIONAL OPERA COMPANY – it seems unclear now exactly what is going to happen and what the level of funding for the new company will be. The loss of OPERA THEATRE COMPANY is an absolute disaster for Opera goers in Ireland. It represents a massive step backwards for opera in Ireland; I think it will mean opera outside Dublin will become a thing of the past. The funding simply will not be there for the grand plans of your predecessor –, you know that, I know that, the dogs on the street know that. it looks like you are backing a loser from day one and you may be remembered as the Minister who set the development of Opera backwards in Ireland.

    I am asking you to consider giving a one year reprieve to OPERA THEATRE COMPANY whilst there is a period of consultation – with the opera goers of this country it would be very welcome and in my opinion a very brave decision to reverse the decision of Minister Cullen. The opera goers of Ireland will be the customers of the output of this new company so let us have a say in the future of opera in Ireland. For once will you listen to the people who buy the “product” as your civil service colleagues may refer to opera.

    OPERA THEATRE COMPANY with its proven track record of good fiscal management, superb creativity, and all Ireland touring capability, is the vehicle any new company could be built on. Ireland does not have the population to create a powerhouse National Opera Giant such as Welsh National Opera – a company which has taken 60 years to build, and whilst it carries the name “Welsh” national opera – it performs in the large urban areas of the Midlands and North West of England – as well of course as Wales and has a local audience to draw from of about 30 million people who live within two hours drive of the theatres it performs at. WNO is not an operatic destination tourist attraction (for example like Wexford) – it is part of the opera going fabric of the UK. Your predecessor, Minister Cullen I understand wanted a national opera company modelled on WNO. We simply do not have the critical mass of opera goers to support it. Let’s cut the cloth according to measure. I am copying this letter to Brian Lenihan – he might have a quiet word in your ear about the small issue of the budget deficit he is trying to fix. I don’t think a bigger spend on opera is high on his priority list – do you?

    Minister, to achieve an opera company the standard of WNO you will need considerably more than the combined budgets currently given to both Opera Ireland and Opera Theatre Company – I understand last year OTC got 650k and Opera Ireland 1.8 million; a total of 2.45 million. Imagine going to cabinet and saying “oh and by the way I want the budget for opera to increase twenty-fold so we can have a world class international opera company based in Dublin.” To create something like WNO you will need this level of funding – Your request will fall on deaf ears, so what will you end up? This is why the previous Ministers plan is ill-conceived and needs a radical rethink – before it is too late.

    We already have a gem of a company in OPERA THEATRE COMPANY. A small tight management team of about half a dozen people; dedicated professional arts administrators and managers, now looking at the dole queue. A company that contracts professional singers, musicians, stage staff, creative staff, all those contracts will go. The OPERA THEATRE COMPANY young artists programme which has helped develop young Irish Operatic talent, will be gone. The many performing arts venues around the country will lose out on not having OTC bringing opera to their part of the country. I will miss the welcome visits to the Hawkswell in Sligo. OTC is exactly the kind of company that receives public funding we should be trying to emulate –well managed, with excellent service delivery of its objectives.

    Minister – please think again. Give OPERA THEATRE COMPANY at least another year and let the opera goers have their say, before you strike out and dismantle this great Irish creative force. Yet more jobs will be lost through this decision. When OTC are on tour, it gets people out to those regional theatres; people spending money in the economy. The Arts Council grant to OTC, allows their very existence to create economic activity; when analysed this must actually claw back much of the grant by people getting out and being active in the economy, spending money. I understand OPERA THEATRE COMPANY received 650,000 Euro from the Arts council last year – can’t you see the economic madness of cutting this grant? losing six full time jobs at OTC plus all the contract employment the company provides. When we see the waste that goes on at FAS, or the HSE re-organisation it makes my blood boil. You will get rid of one of the finest performing arts company this country has which actually “wipes its face” produces a surplus and generates its own economic energy and yet waste millions on the aforementioned. You will be remembered as the Minister who shut down Opera Theatre Company – some achievement as Minister for Arts. Closing an Irish performing arts company with an international reputation, do you think this is a good idea?

    The need to maintain jobs has never been greater – think about the job retention benefits there are by keeping OPERA THEATRE COMPANY. Disband OPERA THEATRE COMPANY and the skill sets and core collective experience of the company is lost in a ministerial stroke of the pen. Is this going to be your legacy at the helm of the Arts?

    Minister please think again. I would welcome the opportunity to meet you with a delegation of opera goers to discuss what we think is achievable and what we would like to see for Opera in Ireland in the future, what is realistic, what is achievable and what would deliver a good realistic national operatic product. I would be happy to give you a 20 minute presentation on how Ireland could have a good opera “product” achieved at current spend levels, We already have an efficient and very creative national opera company – Please don’t cast the creative force of OTC to the four winds it will be lost forever and the opera going public won’t thank you. Mary Hanafin – The Arts Minister who killed opera in Ireland 2010. You have inherited an ill conceived plan – have the courage to change it. Please contact me and I will tell you about an alternative plan that would deliver opera at no extra cost to the state.

    You can be remembered as the Minister of Arts who saved our Touring Opera Company or the Minister who destroyed it. The choice is now yours alone.

    Sincerely

    Cc Brian Lenihan – Brian - Minister Cullens plans were pie in the sky. Please have a word with Mary about what kind of money will be available for opera in the next few years and please contact me if you want to hear the opera goers alternative ideas to the crazy plans being put in place.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,066 ✭✭✭Sandwlch


    http://www.operaireland.ie/index.jsp?p=95&n=157&a=0

    Looks like we will be told what is good for us.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,066 ✭✭✭Sandwlch


    Dont think you will be on Mary Hanafin's Christmas card list this year Westtip.
    You might have gone in a little hard to expect her to give you a hearing! Have you tried the 'Interim Board' ?

    I have mixed feelings on the topic. However much I might like regular, good quality opera available in Ireland, it is a small niche and very hard to justify when the country,public and private, has the spending binge bills of the last ten years to pay. In principal, I am not against the cost efficiencies of a single company - if that one company runs a good show of course.

    I dont despair completely yet - naively you might say. But perhaps they will come up with some composite company that retains the creativity, adventure, cost efficiency, and regional brief of OTC, with some sort or fully staged autumn and spring seasons in Dublin (without getting into that what theatre question again... - it looks like an 'Irish National Opera House' missed the Celtic Tiger boat).

    But touring opera must be expensive. 25 years of OTC didnt exactly promote a boom in opera attendance and interest in Ireland (apologies if I am wrong on this point). So for a small island, to base the company in our only moderately sized city, and ask reqional afficionados to travel to it, seems reasonable to me. Nothing wrong with it putting on its bigger, mainstream repertoire in the Gaiety or GCT, and using say the Helix theatre or somewhere else in the city for the smaller, more minority fare, in my view. Unfortunately I cant see your jobs appeal standing up to objective analysis for value for money.


    (BTW, was away recently and took in a visit to Welsh National Opera: Fidelio and Magic Flute. Neither were any great shakes to be honest - very Opera Ireland feel to both productions. Two is a small sample admittedly, but would be wary of taking them as much to aspire to. Theatre is fantastic though!)


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,282 ✭✭✭westtip


    Sandwlch wrote: »
    Dont think you will be on Mary Hanafin's Christmas card list this year Westtip.
    You might have gone in a little hard to expect her to give you a hearing! Have you tried the 'Interim Board' ?!)

    Do you mean the interim board of INO - why do we have to have a quango-esque board spending money on expenses and meetings when with a bit of common sense the whole thing could be sorted out within a two hour meeting. The interim board has the usual bunch of "luvvies" on it and folk from OI and OTC trying to fight their corner - who will all have an opinon - Brian McMaster is a fine arts administrator - but even he cannot conjure up a National Opera Company on half a shoe string, there is no-one on that interim board who represents the rabble in the gallery, and BTW with the way opera ticket prices are going - the rabble in the gallery today were in the dress circle five years ago more opportunity should give for ordinary opera goers to give an airing and not just the normal bunch of luvvies. - Politicians surround themselves with civil servants and self interest groups and start believing this is the view of the general public, they are very out of touch with real life on all aspects of political issues.
    Sandwlch wrote: »
    I have mixed feelings on the topic. However much I might like regular, good quality opera available in Ireland, it is a small niche and very hard to justify when the country,public and private, has the spending binge bills of the last ten years to pay. In principal, I am not against the cost efficiencies of a single company - if that one company runs a good show of course.

    I dont despair completely yet - naively you might say. But perhaps they will come up with some composite company that retains the creativity, adventure, cost efficiency, and regional brief of OTC, with some sort or fully staged autumn and spring seasons in Dublin (without getting into that what theatre question again... - it looks like an 'Irish National Opera House' missed the Celtic Tiger boat).

    I agree it is a small niche - I am not advocating a full blown touring company along the lines of hte UK regional opera companies as I said to MH, we simply do not have the critical mass - this is where the ill informed and let's face not terribly bright previous Minister did not have clue, he was still living in the mist of the celtic tiger and his idea of a national opera company was really about him turning up in his DJ for a photo op. I don't think we are going to get anything better than the current OI offerings, under a different name, the overall budget for opera is not going to go up, OI needs to pay off its debt - and this will no doubt be funded by the overall opera subvention, and the sacrifcial lamb will be our most creative company - OTC. This plan is so badly thought out all we get from it is negatives IMO.
    Sandwlch wrote: »
    But touring opera must be expensive. 25 years of OTC didnt exactly promote a boom in opera attendance and interest in Ireland (apologies if I am wrong on this point). So for a small island, to base the company in our only moderately sized city, and ask reqional afficionados to travel to it, seems reasonable to me. Nothing wrong with it putting on its bigger, mainstream repertoire in the Gaiety or GCT, and using say the Helix theatre or somewhere else in the city for the smaller, more minority fare, in my view. Unfortunately I cant see your jobs appeal standing up to objective analysis for value for money.

    Yes Touring is very expensive - which is why we are not going to get a national touring opera company, Yes the Opera Company should be based in Dublin - I will always travel for my opera - but in a 45 year opera going career (since I was 5 BTW), having the delights of the chamber opera experience offered by OTC was just that a sheer delight. OTC bought a new opera experience to Ireland and to the Opera going public - what they have done for example with the Handel operas in small auditoria is exactly how these operas would have been seen originally - small auditoria small orchestra and you don't need big belting voices for these operas. I would rather see OTC do Handel or Mozart on this scale than see OI completely F up in the Gaiety. The intimacy of this level of touring was quite fantastic. There is no reason why this scale of touring should not continue, OTC have built a loyal audience around the country - this loyal audience is going to be lost, and for once it is nice not to have to travel to Dublin - I am not expecting to get Aida in the Hawkswell in Sligo - but a chamber scale performance of Cosi, or Figaor or Xerxes etc - yes please and you will build an audience for it.

    Sandwlch wrote: »
    (BTW, was away recently and took in a visit to Welsh National Opera: Fidelio and Magic Flute. Neither were any great shakes to be honest - very Opera Ireland feel to both productions. Two is a small sample admittedly, but would be wary of taking them as much to aspire to. Theatre is fantastic though!)

    I take it you went to the Millenium theatre in Cardiff - sensational isn't it? Pity about the productions - I saw their Meistersinger and Rigoletto earlier this year - Rigoletto a miss for me the Wagner was fantastic. They don't get it right all the time - however just to your point - the greatest Fidelio I have ever seen - was the OTC in Kilmainham - not because of great singers or a huge orchestra or chorous - it was a competent production musically but the sheer creative genius of Annilese to do this one off productin in Kilmainham for me was one of the greatest achievement of the history of Opera in Ireland. It ranks with me as one of the finest nights I have spent in an "Opera House". Imaginative theatre, soul searching stuff, creative thinking - it sat along the Mahabarata (Peter Brooks production) in the Tramway in Glasgow in the late 1980s - the kind of theatrical experience you take to the grave. This is what I will miss about OTC! Anyway it is just another disappointment about the way this country is being managed - I don't like to make political points on this thread - I do elsewhere but this plan IMO is very very poor and really reflects the quality of the people running the country - generally clueless (sorry totally clueless).


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,282 ✭✭✭westtip


    One of Martin e-voting Cullens aspirations was apparently to have an Opera company to rival Welsh national across the water. WNO are a great company that has been established for 60 years performs in a home base which is considered to be one of the greatest opera houses to have been purpose built in the last twenty years, it is a company that performs in a catchment area of about 30 million people.

    What's more it gets 10.8 million sterling from the UK government arts council grant! That's about 12 million Euro. excluding Wexford our total opera subvention from the Arts council last year was 2.45 million.

    If you want a quick look at the figures on WNO go to this link and read the income and expenditure page on their annual report

    http://www.wno.org.uk/about-us/annual-report-accounts


    The maths is not hard to do! This is why the whole national opera company idea is a fiasco, and why the Minister has to recognise the damage EV Cullen did to opera in Ireland in his ministerial pomposity. We are not going to get a national opera company if his plan goes through. the debts on OI will be paid off and we will have to go back to the Dublin grand opera society. the Cullen way is a step backwards.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,066 ✭✭✭Sandwlch


    westtip wrote: »
    Do you mean the interim board of INO - why do we have to have a quango-esque board spending money on expenses and meetings when with a bit of common sense the whole thing could be sorted out within a two hour meeting. The interim board has the usual bunch of "luvvies" on it and folk from OI and OTC trying to fight their corner........there is no-one on that interim board who represents the rabble in the gallery... Politicians surround themselves with civil servants and self interest groups and start believing this is the view of the general public
    Such a board is what I would expect and it seems like the responsible thing to do to me. The minister must delegate such a structural change to people competent to handle it, and devote more than a couple of hours to expenditure of that kind of public money and the state's contribution, even if small, to a branch of the arts and cultural life in Ireland. You might dispute their competence, or have past difficulties with the personalities. But to ignore those involved in running opera in ireland in recent times, when reconfiguring it, would seem bizarre.


    westtip wrote: »
    I agree it is a small niche - I am not advocating a full blown touring company along the lines of hte UK regional opera companies as I said to MH, we simply do not have the critical mass ...... and this will no doubt be funded by the overall opera subvention, and the sacrifcial lamb will be our most creative company - OTC. This plan is so badly thought out all we get from it is negatives IMO.
    I cannot condemn the principal of one state assisted opera company in Ireland as the way to get best value for money. You are making 3 assumptions: OTC=Excellence, OI=Mediocrity, INO= a new name for OI. The first 2 I broadly agree with. But only broadly, and not quite the enourmous gulf between brilliance and abysmal as is sometimes portrayed. It is easy to give 'bonus' credit to OTC for how well they put some fine entertainment together on a shoe string, and penalise OI for squandering bigger resources with some flat (and yes, some dire) productions. You may have more insider information than a simple opera goer like myself, but is the assumption that a single opera compnay, based in Dublin, is only a rebadged DGOS/OI and by definition a bad thing, not a little premature, and even if correct on the rebadging point, a little pessimistic as to what they might achieve?


    westtip wrote: »
    Yes Touring is very expensive - which is why we are not going to get a national touring opera company, Yes the Opera Company should be based in Dublin - I will always travel for my opera - but in a 45 year opera going career (since I was 5 BTW), having the delights of the chamber opera experience offered by OTC was just that a sheer delight. OTC bought a new opera experience to Ireland and to the Opera going public ..... There is no reason why this scale of touring should not continue, OTC have built a loyal audience around the country - this loyal audience is going to be lost, and for once it is nice not to have to travel to Dublin - I am not expecting to get Aida in the Hawkswell in Sligo - but a chamber scale performance of Cosi, or Figaor or Xerxes etc - yes please and you will build an audience for it.
    I still feel touring is an extravagance (even if of small scale productions) that we cannot afford. And maintain, that despite their very praiseworthy efforts, innovation, and regional commitment, OTC could not be deemed to have been successful - and over a decent period it must be said - in growing any significant new opera going public in Ireland.


    westtip wrote: »
    I take it you went to the Millenium theatre in Cardiff
    Yes indeed. Truly splendid venue. I was
    very jealous.


    Q: Are you condemning the formula of an OI type national company due to poor direction by a few individuals over the years, or to due to the formula itself ?


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,282 ✭✭✭westtip


    Sandwlch wrote: »
    Q: Are you condemning the formula of an OI type national company due to poor direction by a few individuals over the years, or to due to the formula itself ?

    Sand thanks for your reply - re this specific question - I think it's a matter of what can be achieved on the budget we are going to have.

    My assumption is that there is going to be no increase in the spend on opera - keeping wexford out the equation, the combined OI and OTC budget is 2.45 million. 650K went to OTC and the balance to OI. OI were always up against it to put on 4 operas a year (2 in Spring and 2 in Autumn), 1.8 million simply wasn't enough - which is why I think standards have slipped at OI. They were placed in an impossible position. I just don't think on 2.45 million we can achieve a great deal in terms of home grown opera of the grand mainstream variety, people expect more from their opera now than a back drop canvass, bare stage and no creativity - I'm a fan of OTC because they have been very creative and have achieved a great deal - and they have bought people into opera who would not hav attended live opera without their presence in the country - have they made opera going part of the cultural fabric and heritage of this country a difficult question - OI have IMO lost the plot in the last few years - I'm not a fan of Dieter - as you know, but I just think on the budgets we are talking about a national opera company will be walking on one leg from the start. The objectives will not be achieveable so why set something up which is going to under achieve from day one.

    The idea of inviting the likes of SO, WNO or ON to add an Irish element to their tour and we can subvent them might be quite appealing - to these companies - it may help them in difficult times to underwrite one or two productions, and it will deliver a good reliable mainstream operatic experience to Belfast Dublin and potentially Cork/Wexford twice a year.

    The answer to your question is a bit of both - yes poor direction in the past few years and definitely yes I don't think the formula will work - cos the money won't be there to allow it to work.

    for what its worth this is my four point propsal to deliver opera (I have excluded the specialist niche of Wexford) on a mainstream basis in Ireland (on the current level of spend):

    My assumption is there will be no increase in funding for opera in Ireland – which is why the grand plan for one company the INO will not work


    1) Disband OI – Not well managed, debt ridden, creatively bankrupt, to management laden, to much a Dublin 4 emphasis – they are not national and to be fair cannot deliver what they are asked within budget, and really this is the key point they under achieve because they can't achieve what they want to do.


    2) Take the 2.45 million given to opera in Ireland and do not ask for an increase from Government (you won’t get it anyway – so be realistic)

    3) Double the grant to OTC to 1.3 million and revise their brief to deliver two (possibly three) operas per annum on the scale they do now taken on tour to minimum eight destinations with equal geographic spread around Ireland but allow two or three within the Dublin region (eg Helix, Bray, Peacock, Tallaght, etc – we have enough venues in the Greater Dublin area) and to include Wexford, Cork, Galway, Sligo as the anchor tour venues. Start to build an audience from the anchor tour venues as a loyal subscription audience – like the regional UK companies do. Open Negotiations to include the North if we can bring NI Arts council back on board, they dropped out of supporting OTC due to the decision by Minister Cullen. This was a disaster – A performing arts company had forged excellent relationships with the NIAC and what did we do – Pull the rug from under them!

    OTC to actively seek a big branded corporate sponsor of Irelands National Touring Opera Company. Any problems with the Aviva Opera Touring Company (if they give you half a million a year)? If Lansdowne Road and the IRFU can sell off a name why not an Opera Company? There are plenty of good quality companies that may want to be associated with such a venture. Tie in a deal for a minimum of five years with the corporate sponsor.

    OTC to Continue with all the other good work they have done – like the youth and education programme and innovations such as Fidelio in Kilmainham etc. OTC would also take on responsibility to market the Met Opera Series – as long as there is a revenue stream in it for OTC. All marketing information from OI to become the property of OTC. Maintain current management of OTC. Fiscal stability to be maintained and philosophy of company to remain.

    4) For Large scale “grand” Opera – no need for a national opera company, can't afford it, so contract out this service to Scottish Opera and Welsh National or Opera North. Take the 1.15 million left over from the Opera Pot of 2.45 million and use this to contract out Grand Opera. I call this the "Coat Tailing policy"

    Subvent one Irish Spring tour of say Scottish Opera along the East Coast Axis: To bring their Spring Season to Belfast (in conjunction with NI Arts Council), Dublin (Grand Canal Theatre) and Wexford Opera House and or cork. I am not asking you to bring Grand Opera to the West.

    Subvent an Autumn/late Winter tour (not to clash with Wexford Festival), hopefully WNO to come to Dublin only at the Grand Canal Theatre to bring what they can for a period of say 5 nights. Big theatre – will fill up for WNO.

    I think this model would deliver a suitable operatic “product” for Ireland

    I remain pessimistic, both in the current fiscal climate and very dismayed at the crazy decision to wind up OTC. Sheer bloody lunacy in my mind!


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  • Registered Users Posts: 368 ✭✭clunked


    As a professionally trained musician, the thought of Dublin being a provincial stop for regional British Opera companies, receiving state subvention would fill me with considerable anger. If that was the case, the Arts Council would be far better giving the money to Amateur Musical Societies which at least would have some economic benefit to the country.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 143 ✭✭JonnyBlackrock


    clunked wrote: »
    As a professionally trained musician, the thought of Dublin being a provincial stop for regional British Opera companies, receiving state subvention would fill me with considerable anger.

    With all due respect, that's got nothing to do with being a professionally trained musician or otherwise. It's all to do with some misguided national "pride".

    We're trying to be realistic here, and for the moment, it looks as if Westtip's idea is about as good as we're going to get. The only point I don't agree with Westtip on is about the state subvention. The Scottish Opera Boheme came here without any subsidy and they still filled the theatre three times. Maybe the British Council could be convinced to subsidise these kind of events under their "intercultural exchange" budget or whatever. After all, that's their job, isn't it? I remember going to a number of British cultural events in Israel (visits from the RSC etc) and they always got funding from the BC.


  • Registered Users Posts: 368 ✭✭clunked


    With all due respect, that's got nothing to do with being a professionally trained musician or otherwise. It's all to do with some misguided national "pride".

    We're trying to be realistic here, and for the moment, it looks as if Westtip's idea is about as good as we're going to get. The only point I don't agree with Westtip on is about the state subvention. The Scottish Opera Boheme came here without any subsidy and they still filled the theatre three times. Maybe the British Council could be convinced to subsidise these kind of events under their "intercultural exchange" budget or whatever. After all, that's their job, isn't it? I remember going to a number of British cultural events in Israel (visits from the RSC etc) and they always got funding from the BC.

    With respect, if our government which is bankrupt anyway are to subsidise opera, they should at least ensure that some of the subvention is at least spent in this country and yes I DO think it relevant that opera is performed by Irish artists as much as possible. Otherwise the Royal Irish Academy of Music or DIT Conserveratoire might as well shut up shop


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 143 ✭✭JonnyBlackrock


    clunked wrote: »
    I DO think it relevant that opera is performed by Irish artists as much as possible. Otherwise the Royal Irish Academy of Music or DIT Conserveratoire might as well shut up shop

    Exactly, which is why it makes much more sense to be realistic. There's no money for the big stuff, so leave that to imports. Then with the money that's left you can subsidise as much small and creative opera as you like, which would give employment to Irish singers, musicians, directors, choir singers etc.

    I'd much rather see a high quality imported production of a big opera, and I most certainly wouldn't go to some awful OI "creation" just because it gave employment to Irish performers. I've only seen two OI productions, both of which were DIRE, and then I gave up on them and decided to save my money.


  • Registered Users Posts: 368 ✭✭clunked


    Mistaken elitism I'm afraid, the syndrome that if its imported its better, dosen't have to be so.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 143 ✭✭JonnyBlackrock


    clunked wrote: »
    Mistaken elitism I'm afraid, the syndrome that if its imported its better, dosen't have to be so.

    That's absolutely not what I said, and I've lived in enough different countries to know that something doesn't have to be imported to be better. And what's more, nobody would be happier than me if there were an Irish National Opera worthy of the name.

    But we have to be realistic. There's no money to set up something decent, and even if the money was there there's no political will and no interest (note the Celtic Tiger years - endless money and still no opera). Which is why I think that Westtip's idea is the only realistic option. We don't have to reinvent the wheel, we just need quality opera productions, so why not import ready made ones for the stuff that costs the most money, and concentrate here on the kind of performances that can be done well on a low budget?


    Even after 10 years here I still can't really believe that I've ended up in the only country in Europe where there's no opera. And it'd nothing to do with the "we simply don't have the population" chestnut. There are cities far smaller than Dublin that have flourishing opera houses. It's that we don't have the kind of population who are interested.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,282 ✭✭✭westtip


    clunked wrote: »
    As a professionally trained musician, the thought of Dublin being a provincial stop for regional British Opera companies, receiving state subvention would fill me with considerable anger. If that was the case, the Arts Council would be far better giving the money to Amateur Musical Societies which at least would have some economic benefit to the country.

    Clunked I can see your point - I agree with much of what JohnyBR has said to counter your thoughts; Like johny I would love to see a national opera company properly funded I don't think we will get that - cos the money ain't there. I remove any thoughts of nationalistic pride out of this whole thing - we do afterall all drive round in imported cars, eat imported food etc and the greatest mind sapping imported culture in the form of satelite TV numbs our minds in our pubs and living rooms.

    Bringing some competent mainstream opera into the country from SO, WNO or ON would bring in economic benefit - the theatres/venues would benefit, the sale of tickets and general consumption by those going out to the opera will generate economic activity (and indeed VAT collectables), I don't actually see how there will be any economic benefit giving the money to amateur musical societies - what will this do for opera goers and what will it do to help the economy?

    Re those working in our musical academies these fine institutions will continue to provide fine musicians for the country and indeed train singers and musicians to have an international career, In my plan I have suggested that OTC grant will double - don't you think this would benefit Irish musicans and singers?
    clunked wrote: »
    Mistaken elitism I'm afraid, the syndrome that if its imported its better, dosen't have to be so.

    ClunkedI don't think this is fair to Johny, its not a matter of imported is better at all - its a matter of better funded is better. you are right it doesn't have to be the case but do you really think the new proposed INO is going to be properly funded? I don't
    The only point I don't agree with Westtip on is about the state subvention. The Scottish Opera Boheme came here without any subsidy and they still filled the theatre three times. .

    Johny your point about not subventing visiting companies like SO who filled the GCT with boheme is a difficult one - I can see your point but I wouldn't pay the SO prices for Boheme which I think keep opera in that expensive but elitist category and do you think SO would they have filled the theatre with very expensive seat prices for say Katya Kabanova? I don't think so. The idea of subventing these companies to come here is give the Irish an opera product that's reliable and up to scratch, Personally I think the idea has got huge potential to solve our opera problem.

    Like you, I am just not convinced the new National Opera company will deliver to its brief, because it won't be able to due to the constraints on its budget and actually like you I would also love to see a properly funded national opera company - but we all know that is not about to happen.

    BTW did anyone go the Rheingold broadcast from the Met last night - what a sensational production and cast and overall performance!!


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,066 ✭✭✭Sandwlch


    westtip wrote: »
    BTW did anyone go the Rheingold broadcast from the Met last night - what a sensational production and cast and overall performance!!

    Not sure why but I still havent pushed myself to a cinema broadcast.

    An OK excuse on Saturday though - La Traviata from Lyric Opera in the NCH. We must support anyone making an effort with live performance. The Cavaliere and team do do their bit to promote upcoming Irish talent. Pick of the night, again, was Claudia Boyle who acted well, had a winning stage presence and sang well. George Mosley while a bit wooden, (though maybe in a wooden role), as Germont pere had a fine voice also. Telman Guzhevsky's Alfredo suffered most from the orchestra overpowering the voices, something that afflicted the whole performance to varying degrees, but maybe that is a flaw of the venue (not to mension the noisy airconditioning audible in any quiet moments - whats wrong there NCH?). Staging was a good try, again, within the limits of a concert hall. The noisy curtain drawback during the magical prelude was unforgivable though. An amateurish feel to it, but I still applaud the effort.

    Saturday night, NCH 95% full - over a thousand people I guess. Not sure of the attendance for two midweek performances, but the indicator is still that if you provide it, they will come.

    Upcoming, The Merry Widow in February, and Don Giovanni in May.


    On the topic of of emplying local musicians, I understand the frustration they would feel at money being spent to import opera. But in the same way that we build schools with the aim of educating our children, not so that we can employ teachers, we choose to spend state funds to provide art and culture for the public, not to employ our musicians. It may be unpalatable, but when we cannot afford to fund the real thing, buying a slice of someone elses is the only realistic option.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,282 ✭✭✭westtip


    Vivian has such an energy level and enthusiasm at Lyric Opera that its great to see him packing the NCH, he is a tireless example of what is achievable on a real shoe string, I haven't been able to get to his productions for a year or so, so thanks for the report on Traviata, and yes supporting live performance is very very important - I got given a freebie for the met opera broadcast and couldn't turn it down. Its not like going to an opera house or live performance and have written on the experience in previous posts - thankfully there were no technical glitches on Saturday - the long Met intervals in the live performances are a bit tiresome when hanging around a multiplex. I am sorry to see that the alternate opera in cinema distributor seems to have gone from Ireland with everyone going down the more expensive NY Met route. The other distributor gave some choice and was actually cheaper. There is some good stuff upcoming though in the met series - but I would be wary of going on a stormy winter night due to potential technical problems with both sound and picture.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,282 ✭✭✭westtip




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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 143 ✭✭JonnyBlackrock


    westtip wrote: »

    La Stupenda. RIP

    That's very sad.
    Later in her career her voice developed a weird kind of duck-like sound, but when she was young she was amazing.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,282 ✭✭✭westtip


    That's very sad.
    Later in her career her voice developed a weird kind of duck-like sound, but when she was young she was amazing.

    OH f**ck you have made me laugh this afternoon! she did have a great voice though, mentioned on another thread that I only heard her once, at the very end of her career in the mid 1980s, Glasgow Royal Theatre I guess about 1987 on her prolonged farewell tour which went on for about two years - she raised the roof and I didn't hear a single quack, deffo not the peak of her career but great to have heard her sing in a theatre and not a bit of amplification needed!

    Anyone booked for Tosca yet and what are the preliminary soundings on Wexford?


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,282 ✭✭✭westtip


    I have only just read this article and still need to take it in p- some of the points he makes are fine - but a lot of it is total drivel>
    Recent experience proves that if opera wants to connect with a wider audience in Ireland, it needs to forget the obsession with tuxedos and the cultivation of operatic snobbery, argues Michael Dervan

    OPERA IN IRELAND is at a major crossroads. It’s a cliche, I know, but it’s true. Opera Theatre Company’s tour of Grigory Frid’s Diary of Anne Frank was its last. Opera Ireland will cease operations after its upcoming Gaiety Theatre production of Puccini’s Tosca .

    Castleward Opera and the Opera Fringe Festival in Northern Ireland have already shut up shop, and the newly formed Opera Company NI has appointed Oliver Mears as its founding artistic director. Applications for the post of general director of the new Irish National Opera company (which will subsume the roles of Opera Theatre Company and Opera Ireland from next year) closed at the end of last month. Mears has announced a raft of new developments for Northern Ireland. But it’s rather scary that no one I’ve managed to speak to has any clear idea what the future will bring elsewhere in Ireland. One thing is certain – for most of next year both opera in Dublin and touring opera are going to be very thin on the ground.

    The Wexford Festival has changed, too. It’s seeking to become Europe’s major outlet for work by living US composers. But that’s another day’s work that we’ll know more about when Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket , premiered in St Louis in July, hits Wexford on Sunday.

    The changes that are underway are hugely challenging, but they also present new opportunities, especially when you take into account the 2,100-seat Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin, which opened last March. It’s no opera house – it’s a commercial receiving venue, with acoustic limitations that make it far from ideal for opera. But it’s got a decently proportioned and equipped stage and orchestra pit, and a range of creature comforts that the Gaiety Theatre cannot expect to rival. And Scottish Opera’s La Bohème , with Celine Byrne as Mimì, which was presented there in June, provided a lot to mull over.

    Firstly, in spite of ticket prices that went up to €125, it was a popular success. And secondly, it felt like it was open to everyone, and that everyone who was there knew that. That’s never been the feeling I’ve got from either Opera Ireland or the Wexford Festival. In fact, both organisations have on a number of occasions taken me aside for firm talkings-to about the matter of wearing evening dress. I kid you not. Monkey suits are a more important part of the ethos at Wexford than they are at Glyndebourne. And rather than let me deal with the potential shame of turning up in normal clothes, sob, sob, both Wexford and Opera Ireland have chosen at different times to try and twist my arm, and make sure their proprieties were observed.

    You may have wondered why the outcry about the demise of OTC has been so much greater than any mourning for Opera Ireland. Well, OTC, of course, has toured the length and breadth of the land, and brought opera to communities where it’s never been seen before. I, for one, had never expected to find myself in Carrigallen for the opening night of a new production of Tom Johnson’s witty, minimalist classic, The Four-Note Opera back in 1998. And OTC has also concentrated on opera in English translation. Opera Ireland was late in introducing supertitles, and Wexford dug itself into an ideological stronghold about them, before caving in and discovering that their audiences loved them. OTC has also distinguished itself by eschewing the kind of operatic snobbery that Wexford and Opera Ireland have so assiduously continued to cultivate.

    By curious coincidence, it was in the same year that I saw The Four-Note Opera in Carrigallen that I went to Scottish Opera’s Tristan und Isolde in Glasgow. Wagner’s Tristan is such a long work – four hours of music – that it has to begin early, 5pm in Glasgow, if I remember correctly. There wasn’t a dress suit in sight. And when it came to interval time, quite a number of opera-goers sat around the place eating the sandwiches they had prepared in advance. Glyndebourne may have a reputation for snobbery, and, yes, I did see people who seemed to have brought their butlers with them for their picnics in the long interval. But I also saw people carrying Marks & Spencer bags from their cars to the lawns, and a far higher proportion of everyday attire than I’ve ever seen at Wexford. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against anyone dressing up if they want to, I just don’t think it should be imposed.

    The Bohème at the Grand Canal Theatre in June was like a breath of fresh air blown as a message to the stuffy end of the world of opera in Ireland. Old hands have remarked to me how it clearly reached out to an audience that doesn’t – or won’t? – go to Opera Ireland or to Wexford. After all, opera is historically a popular artform. It’s not for nothing that it was a sliver of opera, Puccini’s Nessun dorma , that became the anthem of the 1990 World Cup. And it’s no accident either, that in Vienna’s world-renowned Staatsoper, the ticket prices start at €3. Yes, that’s not a misprint – €3. Sure, for that price you have to stand. The Staatsoper has 567 standing places, each with its own multilingual display of what’s being sung, along with 1,709 seats. It’s a totally non-Irish approach to accessibility.

    Whenever opera with a popular slant has been presented in Dublin, there’s been an audience willing to try it out. When Aida was presented at the O2 last December, by an Italian company nobody had ever heard of, there was an audience for it, and one that became very vocal about the shortcomings of the production. When the same work was done for two nights at the same venue, then known as the Point, in 1994, it sold out.

    Further back, in 1991, the year Dublin was European City of Culture, I was able to begin my wrap-up of the year with some astonishing statistics: “1991 was a remarkable year for opera in Ireland,” I wrote. “There were 71 nights of full-scale opera, 43 nights of opera with a reduced orchestra or piano, eight nights of original chamber opera, and a concert performance of Balfe’s Bohemian Girl . In fact, it seems that in 1991 professional opera performances easily outnumbered professional piano recitals.”

    The year’s operatic offerings had included six nights of the Sofia National Opera at the Simmonscourt RDS with seating for 6,500, and five nights by Glyndebourne Touring Opera at the Point. Even though they didn’t sell out, these two companies more than doubled Dublin’s attendances at opera over the previous year. 1991 also saw the Wexford Festival extend its offerings by 20 per cent, to achieve for the first time a run of 18 nights of opera in a row. Luciano Pavarotti (grossing about €900,000 for one night) and Plácido Domingo also gave arena-style concerts that year. Even in those pre-Celtic Tiger days, people were clearly prepared to put their hands in their pockets for opera and its stars.

    I have no idea where opera in Ireland is actually headed at the moment. Responsibility for its future in Dublin has shifted from the Arts Council to the Department of Culture under Mary Hanafin. That seems to me to be no bad thing. The Arts Council had set its heart on creating a national opera company to be based in Wexford. This would have been about as sensible as most of the rest of the governmental decentralisation that’s taken place, except that the council somehow expected to make cost-savings in the process.

    The Arts Council strategy was devised in the face of impending government cutbacks. But difficult times have been no barrier to the development of opera in the past. All of our existing major companies came into being in straitened times; Opera Ireland, originally the Dublin Grand Opera Society, in the war-torn world of 1941; the Wexford Festival during the post-war rationing of 1951; and Opera Theatre Company in 1986, a time of high emigration and a major property slump.

    It was Hanafin’s opera-loving predecessor, Martin Cullen, who upset the Arts Council’s apple cart, and set in train the process that’s led to the demise of OTC and OI, and the creation of a new company. It’s not yet clear that Hanafin has fully taken on board the nature of the issues involved. But I did see her at the opening night of Bohème at the Grand Canal Theatre.

    And opera lovers can but hope that she picked up the many positive messages of that particular occasion. She certainly can’t help but relate them to the priority the government is attaching to cultural tourism and the compelling case that was so strongly made at the Farmleigh economic forum last year about the importance of investment in the arts. A real national opera company would be a major employer. And the evidence is that when the right opportunities have presented themselves – or at least apparently attractive ones, such as last year’s Aida – the wider public’s appetite for opera has proved to be very real indeed.

    I've not got time yet to go through this article but anyone else with views?


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 143 ✭✭JonnyBlackrock


    Indeed bits of it are drivel, but some of it is interesting, especially the bits about dressing up. Dressing up for OI? That's like putting on a dinner jacket and eating scrambled eggs. If they expect the audience to wear fancy clothes then they should supply something that's worthy of them. I've been to the opera a few times in Berlin in the depths of winter, and on all occasions I was wearing an Aran sweater and jeans, and I was definitely one of the better dressed people in the audience. At least my jeans didn't have huge gashes in them!


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,282 ✭✭✭westtip


    Johnny indeed I think he has lost the plot on this article in my 32 years of adult opera going I have never felt obligate to dress up like a ponce. To me going to the opera is merely a night at the theatre, I wouldn't intentionally go scruffy but "standard" every day clothes do the job. Yes I have worn black tie at Wexford but increasingly not so in the past few years, and have often gone to Glynedbourne with a shirt and tie, which would be complete over dress for WNO, SO ON or indeed for OI. I think by focussing on this issue MD has trivialised the important issue about the state of opera in Ireland. I must drop a line to the IT and see if they publish it.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,066 ✭✭✭Sandwlch


    westtip wrote: »
    Johnny indeed I think he has lost the plot on this article in my 32 years of adult opera going I have never felt obligate to dress up like a ponce. To me going to the opera is merely a night at the theatre, I wouldn't intentionally go scruffy but "standard" every day clothes do the job. Yes I have worn black tie at Wexford but increasingly not so in the past few years, and have often gone to Glynedbourne with a shirt and tie, which would be complete over dress for WNO, SO ON or indeed for OI. I think by focussing on this issue MD has trivialised the important issue about the state of opera in Ireland. I must drop a line to the IT and see if they publish it.

    Are you not misreading MD on the dress issue? Or am I ? I read him to be levelling fair criticism at both organisations pushing him to wear black tie, which he was, rightly in my view, citing as an example of the misguided efforts to preserve Opera as an elitist entertainment in Ireland.

    I have been in most of the top opera houses in Europe, and while I have not removed a tie if I had it on for work that day, I have certainly never put one one because I was going to an opera.

    Do your bit for opera this Autumn - leave your tux at home when you go to Wexford.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 143 ✭✭JonnyBlackrock


    Sandwlch wrote: »
    Are you not misreading MD on the dress issue? Or am I ? I read him to be levelling fair criticism at both organisations pushing him to wear black tie, which he was, rightly in my view, citing as an example of the misguided efforts to preserve Opera as an elitist entertainment in Ireland.

    I have been in most of the top opera houses in Europe, and while I have not removed a tie if I had it on for work that day, I have certainly never put one one because I was going to an opera.

    Do your bit for opera this Autumn - leave your tux at home when you go to Wexford.

    Yes, he did seem critical of the "obligation" to dress up for the opera. Well, I for one have never worn a tux in Wexford for the simple reason that I don't actually own one. A suit and tie are fine for me.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,282 ✭✭✭westtip


    Sandwlch wrote: »
    Are you not misreading MD on the dress issue? Or am I ? I read him to be levelling fair criticism at both organisations pushing him to wear black tie, which he was, rightly in my view, citing as an example of the misguided efforts to preserve Opera as an elitist entertainment in Ireland.

    I have been in most of the top opera houses in Europe, and while I have not removed a tie if I had it on for work that day, I have certainly never put one one because I was going to an opera.

    Do your bit for opera this Autumn - leave your tux at home when you go to Wexford.

    Sandwich I just think there are bigger issues, and actually I think he has misread the situation - anytime I have been to the Gaiety to see OI I have not actually seen anyone in black tie, as for weford I wear a jacket and dress tie - but only when I can find the dam thing, last time I couldn't so just put a shirt and tie on - and didn't feel underdressed and didn't get approached by anyone I don't have much call for evening dress in my life and on the very odd occassion when I do wear it the dicky bow tends to get lost. I woudl feel perfectly comfortable at Wexford in a shirt jumper and trousers - just like you I have been to most of the top opera houses in europe - and really just worn what I wanted or had with me on my travels - I think MD didn't focus on the real issue - which is lack of funding for opera - by presenting this opera is elitist angle - he actually made opera feel elitist - it isn't, its an artform for everyone to enjoy, and actually Wexford has made more tickets available this year at decent prices than ever before and is trying its best to open the festival out to all, MD should have focussed on this positive side of Wexford. Re OTC he said OTC are getting support because they are less elitist sing opera in English and tour etc - this is all well and good - but the real reason OTC have got so much support is their standards are so hihg -- the reason OI has received little vocal support in the press is the precise opposite, the past few years standards have slipped having said that they are up against it because of the big issue - Lack of funding.

    The biggest crime in an opera house isn't about wearing a black tie - its about whether yo bring in sweets with noisy papers to unwrap.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,066 ✭✭✭Sandwlch


    Feels strange to be defending a MD article but maybe that is because he isnt actually reviewing any music in this one!

    Nevertheless. He seems to be making the case that there an audience for opera in Ireland - eg, big events in the past in similarly or even more money strapped times, or more recently the Aida (fiasco) or the Boheme visit to GTC. But that neither Wexford Festival nor OI seemed to have any interest in tapping into, or expanding this audience, but prefering instead an elitist cosy club of fellow afficionados (surtitles, dress codes, language etc. are trivial things in the greater picture but are crucial to perception of the art by the wider public). OTC did try an alternative approach - and achieved more than OI, trying to increase audiences, developping regional supporters (though my own thought as previously stated is that the yield from their efforts is unfortunately negligible), and offered a good artistic standard. Hence the disappointment at their demise outdoing any comment on the passing of OI.

    If I summarise him correctly, I agree with most of it. And would add my own thought, that it is the strategy of all involved that has led to a minimal interest in opera in Ireland, and their own straightened funding situation is very much their own doing rather than simply nasty politicians unwilling to release the purse strings.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 4,282 ✭✭✭westtip


    Sandwlch wrote: »
    But that neither Wexford Festival nor OI seemed to have any interest in tapping into, or expanding this audience, but prefering instead an elitist cosy club of fellow afficionados .

    I think he is being really unfair about Wexford, they have made real efforts to make the festival more accessible since the new opera house has opened - the waiting list for friends went, they have tickets at variable prices, they have a good website, they engage in text and email marketing, they have the mini-operas etc, in fact they have made stirling efforts to improve communication with the great unwashed. In the same way that Glyndebourne became a better marketed opera company with the new opera house,and far more accessible - the new house has meant a new direction for Wexford - it has released the festival to far more people and they have much bigger audiences now - that consist of far more ordinary opera goers than the protected "we can get tickets, Friends cosy club" - exactly the same happened at Glydnebourne. An Opera Festival in many ways is a bit specialist anyway and perhaps is not the route to build a mainstream opera following. OI on the other hand has not really moved with the times - which is why they need a dam good shake up - but at the cost of getting rid of OTC is a disgrace. His editor gave him a lot of space for this article and I think he messed up because he lost his way writing it, the point about Tristan and people eating M&S sandwiches was so irrelevant - opera goers have been taking picnics to Wagner for donkeys years - you would think he had seen something new - Sure I saw the same level of Picnicking at the UCH in Limerick for the concert ring cycle there several years ago. and not a black tie in sight. I don't know - I just think MD lost an opportunity in this article to map out a vision for opera in ireland instead of moaning about something quite irrelevant.


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