The Belfast Opera is being developed as a cross-Belfast partnership. Seven organisations have come together to help deliver the project. Led by Belfast Buildings Trust, the others involved are Northern Ireland Opera, East Belfast Community Development Agency, Conway Mill, Morton Community Centre, Cavehill Community Choir, and the Prince’s Trust.
The creative team consists of Belfast-based award-winning artists Glenn Patterson and Neil Martin as librettist and composer, and the Dublin-born Conor Hanratty as Director and David Brophy as Conductor for the World Premiere performances.
Belfast-born Neil Martin is a composer and musician with an international reputation who enjoys a most varied and rewarding career encompassing dance, theatre, film, television, radio, symphonic concert hall, stage and studio. A cellist and an uilleann piper, he has collaborated with many leading artists, including Liam O’Flynn, Bryn Terfel, Jean Butler, Sam Shepard, Stephen Rea, LSO, RPO, all the principle orchestras in Ireland, Christy Moore, The Dubliners, The Chieftains, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, Altan, Shaun Davey, Mary Black and Donal Lunny.
Notable compositions include the choral symphony OSSA; Lachrimae Rerum for strings; a cappella settings of the Exsultet and Agnus Dei. He has scored music for plays on Broadway, in the West End and in Europe, and in his roles as producer, arranger and musician Neil has contributed to more than a hundred albums.
His performance venues range from Carnegie Hall to Mostar Bridge, from the Royal Albert Hall to the Palazzo Vecchio. His ground-breaking work with the West Ocean String Quartet has been lauded globally, and beyond – all of the quartet’s albums have been played aboard the International Space Station.
Glenn Patterson is the author of nine novels, the most recent of which is The Rest Just Follows. The Mill for Grinding Old People Young (2012) was Belfast’s first One City One Book choice. Here’s Me Here, a collection featuring his articles and essays for print and broadcast has just been published by New Island, who previously published the collection Lapsed Protestant. A memoir, Once Upon a Hill: Love in Troubled Times was published in 2008 and a new novel, Gull will appear in January next year. His work for radio includes the plays DeLorean (Radio 4, 2011) and Babble (Radio 3, 2006) as well as short stories. His first feature film Good Vibrations (co-written with Colin Carberry) was released in 2013. More recently he has collaborated with the composer Ian Wilson on a chamber opera adaptation of John Fowles’ The Collector.He has also presented numerous television documentaries and an arts review series for RTE.
Conor Hanratty is from Dublin. He has MFA in directing Theatre and Opera from University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). He trained at the Samuel Beckett Centre and as part of Rough Magic’s SEEDS programme, and at the National Theatre in London and Waseda University, Tokyo. He spent three years as a participant of Six in the Attic at the Irish Theatre Institute. He began 2015 at the Royal Opera House working on Tim Albery’s production of Der Fliegende Hollander. For the summer he returned to The Glimmerglass Festival for a second year, directing Trouble in Tahiti and assisting Francesca Zambello on a new production of Candide. He has a track record of recent productions including HARP | A River Cantata (opening ceremony for the 20th Tiger Dublin Fringe), Trial by Jury (Wexford Festival Opera), RIAM’s Opera Briefs – Saints & Sinners (Project Arts Centre), Maria de Buenos Aires (Cork Opera House), Romeo & Juliet (Second Age), FLATPACK (Ulysses Opera Theatre), Sequin Dreams (Show in a Bag). As assistant director he worked on Don Carlos (Rough Magic – winner, Best Production, Irish Times Theatre Awards 2007), Dialogues des Carmélites (UCLA Opera) Nixon in China (Wide Open Opera), Madame Butterfly (Glimmerglass Festival) and on Cristina, Regina di Svezia and Silent Night (Wexford Festival Opera – consecutive winners of Best Opera Production, Irish Times Theatre Awards). Forthcoming engagements include a reviving Francesca Zambello’s production of Madame Butterfly at San Antonio Opera, and a new set of Opera Briefs by Monteverdi and Handel for the Royal Irish Academy of Music.
"Joel"- Bruno Caproni
Born in Bangor, Northern Ireland of Italian descent, Bruno Caproni studied in Belfast with James Shaw before entering the Royal Northern College of Music to study with the legendary Frederic Cox. He was most fortunate to be the first new student to be placed with Mr. Cox in five years becoming his last ever pupil. Whilst at the RNCM he was awarded the prestigious Vaughan Williams/Frederic Cox Award. He was also the recipient of the Ricordi Prize for Opera for his performance of the title role in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” in the 1988 college production specially mounted for him. Grants from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, The Royal Opera and English National Opera enabled him to continue his studies at the National Opera Studio in London.
Whilst at the National Opera Studio he made his debut at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden subsequently becoming one of the company’s Young Artists. Following this he was principal baritone at the Hessisches Staatstheater Darmstadt before taking the same position at the Cologne Opera.
He has appeared as a leading Verdi baritone in many of the world’s major opera houses including La Scala Milan, Vienna Staatsoper, The Metropolitan Opera New York, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Pittsburgh, and San Diego. The Royal Opera Covent Garden, English and Welsh National Operas, Deutsche Oper and Komische Oper Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Vlaamse Opera Antwerp and Ghent, Opéra du Rhin Stasbourg, the opera houses in Trieste, Livorno, Lecce, Rovigo, Vicenza, Belfast and Dublin. In 2011 he was especially invited by the distinguished Brazilian director Felipe Hirsch to sing his production of Verdi’s Rigoletto to mark the 100th anniversary and reopening of the newly refurbished Theatro Municipal in São Paulo. Festivals he has appeared in include Glyndebourne, Wexford, Klangbogen Wien and the Casals Festival Puerto Rico.
He has sung with many of the greatest singers past and present including Roberto Alagna, Jose Carreras, Montserrat Caballe, Jose Cura, Diana Damrau, Placido Domingo, Renee Fleming, Angela Gheorghiu, Luciano Pavarotti, Nina Stemme, Rolando Villazon.
His many broadcasts on radio and television include Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” from La Scala Milan, Franchetti’s “Germania” from the Deutsche Oper Berlin and a Royal Gala “Pavarotti Canta Verdi” evening in Monte Carlo at the personal invitation of Luciano Pavarotti to celebrate his 67th birthday.
Bruno Caproni has sung under the direction of many distinguished conductors including Marco Armiliato, Richard Bonynge, Paolo Carignani, Sir Colin Davis, Sir Edward Downes, Placido Domingo, Edward Gardner, Danielle Gatti, Sir Bernard Haitink, Carlos Kleiber, Fabio Luisi, Zubin Metha, Riccardo Muti, Donald Runnicles, Nello Santi and Jeffrey Tate.
In addition to his operatic work he frequently appears in recital with the pianist Julian Evans and in recent years has been a much sought after teacher of singing.
"Flo"- Rebecca Rodgers
Rebecca Rodgers is a Masters graduate of the Royal Irish Academy of music under the tutelage of Mary Brennan. Previous roles include: Iris, Semele, Bödo FLATPACK, Geraldine, A hand of Bridge, Mrs. Herring, Albert Herring, Petrovna, Mavra, Journalist, Sensational! Chocholka, The Cunning Little Vixen, Cathleen, Riders to the Sea at Castalia, L’armonia, Ormindo and most recently Suor Angelica at The Peacock Theatre, Dublin which sparked a review in Opera Magazine – “Rebecca Rodgers was outstanding as a really believable Angelica.” “Rebecca Rodgers displayed an impressively fiery temperament and a voice already rich and powerful” – The Belfast Telegraph.
Prizes/scholarships include: The National Opera Studio’s short course (awarded by NI opera), Sligo Feis Ceoil senior bursary winner and the Flax Trust bursary winner awarded by Camerata Ireland.
Last year she performed in “Ten thousand miles away” in The Juilliard School of Music in New York – a song project devised by the Scottish pianist, Iain Burnside and directed by Conor Hanratty.
Rebecca was selected as a Young Artist for Northern Ireland Opera for the 2015-16 season and subsequently has just understudied the role of Mrs. Grose in their production of The Turn of The Screw.
"Leah"- Bríd Ní Ghruagáin
2016 has seen Dublin-born mezzo-soprano Bríd singing in concerts from Dublin to Rome, most recently having returned to perform as a guest soloist with the Dún Laoghaire Choral Society, conducted by David Brophy, and several concerts with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra Opera Chorus under John Wilson.
In 2015 she performed the role of Zita (La Vecchia) in Gianni Schicchi, and Die Hexe in Hänsel und Gretel – both as part of the Mezzano Romantica Festival in Italy. She later reprised her role of The Witch in the English version of Hansel and Gretel with North Dublin Opera, doubling with the role of Mother. Other recent opera work includes chorus for NI Opera’s Turandot, Nancy Tang, 1st Secretary (cover) and chorus member in Wide Open Opera’s 2014 production of Nixon in China, returning to Wide Open Opera twice more that year to sing chorus in their series of street operas Things We Throw Away and the City of Culture commission The Oldest Woman in Limerick, both by Belfast’s own Brian Irvine and John McIlduff. As part of the centenary celebrations for Benjamin Britten, Bríd book-ended 2013 with performances as Mrs. Grose in The Turn of the Screw and Mrs. Noye in Noye’s Fludde, while completing her Masters in the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama.
Bríd has also won several prizes in recent years including the Conservatory’s Louis Ely O’Carroll Gold Medal, Ruth Mervyn (Irish Contemporary) and Messiah competitions. She was also in the Britten Ensemble that won the Feis Ceoil Wilson Cup in 2013. She has been a guest soloist with the Dún Laoghaire Choral Society, the Early Music Society, and Dublin Bach Singers as well as premiering the soprano solo of Colm Ó Foghlú’s RTÉ-commissioned Aifreann na nAingeal. Bríd is a member of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra Opera Chorus, Dublin Bach Singers and all-female voice Dulciana.
Bríd also works as a writer and performer in Irish, providing libretto for Colm Ó Foghlú’s RTÉ-commissioned Oratóir na Nollag: Ceol Ar Snámh Ón Spéir Anuas, and the Irish script for SpongeBob Squarepants: Spúinse as Uisce for Paramount Pictures which was released in Irish all over Ireland. She is also a voice actor, regularly to be heard on TG4 in cartoons like The Jungle Bunch and Q Pootle 5.
Bríd Ní Ghruagáin graduated from the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama where she studied under Toni Walsh for the Masters in Music (Performance). She is currently studying with countertenor Stephen Wallace.
"Ed"- Ross Scanlon
Irish born Tenor Ross Scanlon trained at the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama where he was awarded the Michael McNamara Gold Medal of excellence in performance and at the Royal Academy of Music, London. He continues his studies with Philip Doghan.
At the Royal Academy of Music, his roles included Lurcanio Ariodante, Masino La vera costanza, Monostatos Die Zauberflöte and Scaramuccio Ariadne auf Naxos.
Elsewhere, his roles have included Le Thérière L’Enfant et les sortlièges with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Hot Biscuit Paul Bunyan for Welsh National Youth Opera, Male Chorus The Rape of Lucretia for Irish Youth Opera, Bookkeeper The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny for OTC, Dublin, Remendado Carmen for Lyric Opera, Dublin, Bill A Hand of Bridge, Remendado Carmen and Tamino Die Zauberflöte for Glasthule Opera.
Ross sings widely in concert, his engagements including Alexander’s Feast, Messiah and The Creation with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Messiah at the Halle Festival, Germany, at the Handel Music Festival, Dublin, and with the Irish Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as performances with choral societies through the UK and Ireland. Other oratorio’s include Britten Saint Nicolas, Dvorák Stabat Mater, Handel’s Alexander’s Feast and Coronation Anthems, Haydn Die Jahreszeiten, The Creation and Missa in Tempore Belli, Mendelssohn Elijah and St Paul, Stainer Crucifixion, Mozart’s Vesperae Solemnes de Confessore and Coronation Mass Schubert’s Mass in B flat, Jenkins ‘The Armed Man – A Mass for Peace’ , Goodall Eternal Light – A Requiem (Irish Premiere).
Belfast Buildings Trust was founded in 1996 to deliver physical, social and economic regeneration through the reuse of Belfast’s landmark buildings. The Trust works with local people across Belfast and supports the development of strong communities. It has worked on almost 200 heritage-led regeneration projects throughout Northern Ireland and has delivered capital projects at St. Patrick’s School, Christchurch, and the Good Shepherd Gate Lodge. One of its most important current projects is the development of a sustainable regeneration scheme at Carlisle Memorial Church in North Belfast.
Northern Ireland Opera is a dynamic organisation dedicated to the highest possible standards of operatic excellence, Northern Ireland wide. Through an ambitious and imaginative programme of productions and events, the company provides high quality opera while promoting and nurturing the finest local talent. By keeping ticket prices affordable and through the regular use of English, Northern Ireland Opera aims to broaden the audience for the art form that famously combines exciting stories, big spectacle, and great music. It also aims to be a company that genuinely belongs to its community by engaging in a wide range of education and outreach activities, while collaborating with UK and European opera companies and continually developing and seeking new partnerships with local organisations.
East Belfast Community Development Agency is the ‘umbrella organisation’ supporting community development in East Belfast. EBCDA exists to provide resources, support and capacity building programmes for community groups that are based on partnership, equal opportunities and sustainable outcomes. Its membership is made up of community groups drawn from an area that contains almost 94,000 people. EBCDA is representative of a broad range of interests and needs within communities and encompasses a variety of groups, including local residents’ associations, faith based organisations, sports clubs, older people’s projects and women’s groups.
Conway Mill is a highly successful community and enterprise space in West Belfast. Built as a linen mill around 1842, eventually forming part of the Falls Flax Spinning Company. After many years of dereliction after the mill closed, the Conway Mill Preservation Trust was established in 1999. A registered charity, the Trust aimed to preserve, protect, and reuse the mill complex for the benefit of the inhabitants of Belfast and of West Belfast in particular. After an extensive refurbishment the mill is now one of Belfast’s best preserved and most important historical buildings. Critically, it provides a unique multi-functional space for a range of community and private businesses whilst also preserving the local industrial heritage and history of the area.
Morton Community Centre is one of 23 community centres directly run and managed by Belfast City Council. It is situated on Lorne Street, just off the Lisburn Road. The centre was formerly a warehouse which was donated to serve the local community by the family of the late Jack Morton in 1989. Belfast City Council then adopted the building, a hidden gem in the city as its size and appearance from the street are very deceptive. Morton Community Centre is a very diverse centre and is well used by various groups for a variety of purposes in South Belfast such as yoga, martial arts, drama, children’s clubs and senior citizens groups etc.
Cavehill Community Choir is a “no audition required” choir, founded in 2013. It was created to inspire the North Belfast and wider Belfast community to get involved in the celebration of music and singing. It now has well over 100 members on its books and a regular weekly attendance of 80 – 90. The choir has sung at many local concerts, carol services and theatrical events, and in June 2015 they formulated and presented a dramatic presentation ‘Belfast City of Song’ which received great acclaim. CCC’s material includes folk songs from around the world, spirituals, music theatre numbers and many arrangements made especially for the group. This choir proves on a weekly basis that anyone can sing and, given appropriate encouragement, can do so with confidence and life-enhancing pleasure.
The Prince’s Trust was founded in 1976 by HRH The Prince of Wales in 1976 to help young people from disadvantaged and difficult backgrounds. It runs a range of training programmes, provides mentoring support and offers financial grants to build the confidence and motivation of disadvantaged young people. Each year they work with about 60,000 young people, with around 80% moving on to Employment, Education, Training or Volunteering.
The Prince’s Trust is one of the most successful funding organisations in the UK and the UK’s leading youth charity, having helped over 750,000 young people turn their lives around, created 125,000 entrepreneurs and given business support to 395,000 people in the UK.
Within Northern Ireland, it works across all sections of the community on a cross-community basis with three offices in Belfast, Derry-Londonderry, and Newry. It works with around 5,000 young people in Northern Ireland every year.