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The Competition

The Competition

The Competition - An Interactive Feis by Kristyn Fontanella. Image Shaun Vaughan. *** From the dance marathons of the Great Depression to the Hip Hop Dance Battles of today, competitions have been inextricably linked with dance. With few dance styles being more competitive than Irish dancing. Indeed, the word Feis translates as competition: the joyous bane of many a parent and child, enduring day long waits in heavy costumes to enjoy a three minute reel for a medal the size of your palm. On International Dance Day 2021, choreographer Kristyn Fontanella's The Competition took the idea of the Feis and added an interactive voting twist. But if it's a neat idea that makes you look closer, its one that's a little too tidy for playing it a little too safe. Featuring dancers, Laura Lundy, Sarah Fennell, Yuki Nomiya and James Greenan, an intriguing opening sequence built from short individual patterns builds towards a simple, harmonious rhythm, crafted in conjunction with musicians Paddy Kiernan and Dale McKay. Throughout, Fontanella proves impressively adept at moving bodies in space, even if the bodies themselves aren't as visually interesting. On a square patterned floor, reminiscent of a studio for a children's tv show, a motif it confusingly leans into, a series of routines find all four dancers weaving intrepidly and crafting fluid flowing patterns. Creating intricate sequences like manic chess pieces, as in a charming routine about a race towards a call bell, with several routines looking designed to camera. The Competition - An Interactive Feis by Kristyn Fontanella. Image Shaun Vaughan. All of which impacts, in true Feis fashion, on which dancer will win. Randomly, without warning, the audience are frequently invited to vote for their favourite dancer. If you believe that public voting really benefits the performer with the largest group of friends, have no worries. The voting is strictly tongue in cheek, facilitating a World of Dance styled 'getting to know the dancer' segment as votes are tallied. Yet there's steel hidden in this voting velvet, as the possibility it might matter brings greater attention to patterns, synchronicity, presence, expression and the positioning of dancers. Yet an MC looking like he strayed in from hosting a children's party reminds you there's no real gravitas to it. A theme echoed in its overarching, childlike fun factor, and strong costume colours, making the whole look unsure of its audience. While voting is an excellent ploy to improve attention, and makes the online experience far more engaging, it exacts a costly price in revealing many routines that move well but have too little else of visual interest. Even allowing for being rooted in Irish traditional forms, most play it too safe when it comes to the body, already restricted by the camera frame. Even so, as a work for children The Competition's lighthearted approach could well prove highly successful, even if adults might find it lacking variety and sufficient ingenuity. Either way, resolving some serious buffering issues resulting in significant time loss, and some blurred camera work in places, is crucial. That said, The Competition's childlike charm might well lure you in. The Competition - An Interactive Feis by Kristyn Fontanella, presented by Fontanella Dance Company in association with Town Hall Theatre Galway, Galway Theatre Festival, Nenagh Arts Centre & Dance Limerick, is available online till May 1st For more information, vist Kristyn Fontanella.

Boland: Journey of a Poet

Boland: Journey of a Poet

Siobhán Cullen in Boland: Journey of a Poet by Druid. Photography by Emilija Jefremova It's impossible to overstate Eavan Boland's contribution to Irish poetry, and to inspiring women poets the world over during the last half century. With unrelenting honesty Boland's works disclosed the silenced and unseen in the domestic lives of women. Helping throw open the doors of poetry at a time when the women she knew were not poets, and the poets she knew were not women. Where art was often a world removed from where women actually lived. Dismantling myths and the fictions of nationhood, she examined the roles assigned women in Irish history while refusing to be constrained by them. Instead, Boland found another way of speaking. Commemorating the first anniversary of Boland's untimely death on April 27th, 2020, Druid Theatre's Boland: Journey of a Poet, directed by Garry Hynes, sees Siobhán Cullen giving voice to a selection of Boland's poetry and prose, lovingly curated by Colm Tóibín. In charting the shaping of Boland as woman and poet Boland: Journey of a Poet charts a journey singular to Boland, yet one whose experiences, history, and insights will resonate with many. Over a well timed fifty minutes a patchwork of extracts from Boland's works are read and recited by Cullen, revealing a complex and driven writer. Meanwhile visual artist, Debbie Chapman, paints a portrait of the poet in the background. An image which links Boland to her artistic mother, and to a feminine artistic heritage, both historical shoved into the background. Like Francis O'Connor's set, filled with details artistic and domestic, Cullen's delivery is infused with a quaint formalism. Yet alternating between a direct delivery of Boland's prose and a conventionally styled book reading of her poetry proves to be a double edged sword. If the conversational prose invites you in, the Jackanory styled poetry reading risks Boland's poems looking locked in their pages. Like dusty diary entries from a life lived long ago, in a world removed from today. Yet poems like Night Feed, and Love, remind us that Boland's work is indeed something to grow old and to die in, to live and love in, and is arguaby more relevant today. Siobhán Cullen in Boland: Journey of a Poet by Druid. Photography by Emilija Jefremova Determined, fastidious, passionate, Boland emerges as a women never backward about coming forward, with a spine of steel and a rigorous approach to writing. If her generosity of spirit and playful humour isn't very much in evidence, perhaps that's as it should be. One suspects that for a poet for whom kisses do not appear when she writes of love, public displays of affection might have left her uneasy. Well, tough luck Eavan. Boland: Journey of a Poet is a public display of deep affection. Reminding us of a true fire guilder, setting truths to rights and dispelling the noise of myths. A must see for all lovers of Boland and poetry. Boland: Journey of a Poet, presented by Druid Theatre as part of Druid at Home, was streamed live on April 22, 23 and 24. It is available on demand from April 27 till May 2. For more information, visit Druid Theatre

The Visiting Hour

The Visiting Hour

Stephen Rea and Judith Roddy in The Visiting Hour by Frank McGuinness. Image Ros Kavanagh ***** If you're going to turn up late, make a seriously strong impression. Over a year since live theatre moved online and The Gate Theatre has been noticeable by its absence. Now, sporting a Frank McGuinness world premiere, featuring Stephen Rea and Judith Roddy, and directed by soon to be Abbey Theatre Artistic Director, Caitríona McLaughlin, The Gate Theatre finally turns up at the online party. And decked out in McGuinness's The Visiting Hour, makes its entrance with some considerable style. Part of the Gate At Home initiative, which aims to stream bespoke productions live, The Visiting Hour conveys its complex Daddy daughter tale in real time over the space of a visiting hour. In which unnamed daughter, Roddy, has a socially distanced visit with her unnamed Dad with dementia, Rea, at a nursing home during COVID. Further separated by a pane of glass, their worlds spin, touch, repel and collide, before spinning off wildly again. Yet embedded in nonsense talk of what was and what might never have been lies hidden what is. Glimpsed between vexatious memories of being a runner-up in the Eurovision Song contest, the lunacy of Luxembourg, or the demands placed on a daughter fulfilling filial obligations to a father who doesn't recognise her anymore. Yet even as the sands constantly shift underfoot, leaving few certainties to hold on to, hearts can still call across the maddening divide, finding cracks and fractures of light. Stephen Rea and Judith Roddy in The Visiting Hour by Frank McGuinness. Image Ros Kavanagh Bold, beautiful, and brilliantly crafted, McGuinness's looping script coils self-referentially about itself with a musical sense of phrasing. In which the call and response dynamics between Dad and daughter are superbly realised. Aided by some terrific direction by McLaughlin, who, along with the Areaman Company's fluid interplay of camera angles, superbly lit by Paul Keogan, makes live action/reaction shots seem visually seamless. If McGuinness's text can feel like a word association, stream of consciousness exercise in places, his language slips such constraints so as to crackle and sizzle. Throughout, COVID might provide a context, but The Visiting Hour is never confined by it. Rather it transcends it, becomes larger than it, and becomes one of the best plays on COVID in the process. And one of the best online theatrical experiences since COVID. Judith Roddy in The Visiting Hour by Frank McGuinness. Image Ros Kavanagh In which Stephen Rea is simply extraordinary as a man lost to his musings and to impotent rage. Even if Katie Davenport's costuming, which holds true to McGuinness's script, leaves a coiffed Rea looking like Anne Rice's vampiric Lestat after a particularly rough night. If Judith Roddy's mask of concentration looks strained and embittered, especially next to Rea's rambling and shifting inattentiveness, it's a mask she lets slip at just the right moments to powerful effect. For when it comes to emotion, Daddy and daughter can ease towards feeling nothing, bitterness, or easy sentiment. What they truly feel living in the subtext of their souls, with snatches of it surfacing fleetingly. Yet under McGuinness's masterful craftsmanship it informs everything, and hits you like a punch to the heart. Stephen Rea and Judith Roddy in The Visiting Hour by Frank McGuinness. Image Ros Kavanagh As with any opening night, there's issues, for theatre online is not exempt from a gremlin or two. Lagging and buffering at key moments, the absence of Vincent Brightling's traditional greeting, remind you how much things have changed for The Gate in the past year. Even as some things remain the same. McGuinness, delivering one of his best plays of recent years, is phenomenal. Rea is out of this world. Roddy is simply superb. And The Gate is back with yet another winner. The Visiting Hour. Here for a short time. Don't miss it. The Visiting Hour by Frank McGuinness, presented by The Gate Theatre, is available online till April 24th. It will be available on demand from May 10th to May 23rd. For more information, visit The Gate Theatre.

City

City

John McCarthy in City. Image by Clare Keogh *** When it comes to theatre online, it's been a case of damned if you do, damned if you don't the past twelve months. The Abbey, damned with faint praise for doing, proselytised to the nation via branded packages of video biscuits brimming with self serious, political crunchiness. If advocates were pleased, others felt like they were drowning in the political doldrums, left hankering after something theatrically more substantial. Even a little levity to lighten the lockdown load. Elsewhere, others embraced the online medium with varying degrees of distress. Dublin Theatre Festival, Dublin Fringe Festival and Axis Ballymun got it mostly right, while others missed as often as hit, Zoom becoming a byword for both progress and mediocrity. Meanwhile coaching lessons, development talks, and brain storming sessions on the future of theatre blossomed exponentially courtesy of Zoom, looking like smiley faced, online play dates. Intentions, in all instances, were honourable. An effort to shift from "Fuck, COVID" to "Fuck You COVID" and ensure artists made work and got paid. Theatre just had to figure out how. Yet a year on of recycling, repackaging, and reimagining theatre and audience accommodations to the screen are beginning to wear thin. Just as The Gate, damned for not doing for the last twelve months, steps into the online fray. And is immediately damned for doing so. Suggestions of same idea, similar characters between Micheal Hartnett's The Noble Call and Frank McGuinness's The Visiting Hour, set for its world premiere April 22, have churned the waters even before opening night. And even though there's no suggestion of plagiarism, Selina Cartmell must be wondering can she ever catch a break. City at Everyman, Cork. Image by Clare Keogh All of which establishes the current context for City, in which John McCarthy delivers thoughts and tales about souls, stories, and soul storied cities. Presented with self deprecating charm and understated humour, McCarthy's direct address from the Everyman, Cork, resembles a lively press conference, his personification of a nameless city exuding a captivating, conversational ease. Yet with a post dramatic sensibility that hints of Beckett, McCarthy often resembles a soft toned hipster auditioning for a role as a modern day Seanchaí, replete with sound effects. While his hour long monologue seduces at times, its radio friendly tone can make for a long, slow listen. Reminding you, as does McCarthy, that you can't communicate as effectively over 4G. For whatever its marvels, the screen is not a black box space, there is no audience besides the viewer, and something theatrically vital is filtered out by the screen. Stating the obvious, but worth remembering, for City is sapped of some of its magic even while making the screen its friend. Director Niall Cleary, conscious that McCarthy can own the screen as well as the stage, deftly sidesteps doing anything heavy handed courtesy of some subtle camera work, allowing McCarthy to breathe in albeit shallow visual waters. If only the script had done the same. Languorously paced, and often sounding like curious copy for an Irish Tourist Board commercial, McCarthy shapes his lightweight tales from fragmented, lacklustre details, skimping on the poetic like a literary cheapskate. Which is a shame, for when McCarthy lets poetry fly, there are some genuine moments of magic. If McCarthy's post dramatic City speaks to the endurance of stories and spaces, offering fresh perspectives at times, ultimately it fails to make its case, with its referencing of history and mythology only adding washed out colour. Wrapping up with an unconvincing 'the city is the pull between people' sentiment, an embedded caution concerning how buildings retain traces of memory speaks truer. Even if City forgets that when the buildings are gone, it's bye bye to both lyrics and melody, and hello to high priced, gentrified glass towers with their built in obsolescence and mobile business professionals. Meanwhile, as the irresistible exclusion of its communities to the suburbs continues, what remains as a city is something new entirely. Something City senses, but never quite gets at, making for an uneasy marriage between truth and sentiment, between the present and past. A bizarre object without clear context, City labours its discarded stories with considerable charm, but its soft spoken, post dramatic flow means it's likely to attract the like minded rather than the convert. Still, even if you find yourself not wanting to live there, McCarthy's City is well worth a visit. Kudos to both McCarthy and The Everyman for looking to pave new ways forward through the new abnormal under these odd and difficult conditions. City, written and performed by John McCarthy, presented by The Everyman, is available online till April 25. For more information, visit The Everyman.

La Bohème

La Bohème

Celine Byrne as Mimi in Irish National Opera's La Bohème. Image uncredited ***** Paris. The city of light, love, and life loving bohemians. Awash with art, heart, and hubris, Puccini's timeless 1896 opera, La Bohème, based on Henri Munger's novel Scènes de la vie de Bohème, published 1851, has probably done more than most to mythologise Paris and Parisians. Whose passions are often best revealed when in distress. In Puccini's heart-rending interpretation, the lives, loves, and longings of Paris' poverty stricken Latin Quarter are romantically writ large. And made sumptuous in Irish National Opera's spellbinding concert performance. Featuring an outstanding Celine Byrne, whose inimitable Mimi, loving utterly and completely, is sure to melt even the hardest of hearts. Irish National Opera's La Bohème. Image, Ros Kavanagh Kicking off with the minimum of musical introductions, it's a case of eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. So to hell with the rent, make sure you dine lavishly, and do so at someone else's expense. Marrying the unvarnished confidence of youth to a self serving selfishness passing for passion, the tenderness that underscores Puccini's artistic souls is often well hidden. Apart from the consumptive Mimi, who wears her ailing heart on her sleeve. A heart she gives to the poet Rodolfo, who she meets one night looking for light. But love comes at a cost, as the kept Musetta, and aspiring painter Marcello, know only too well. A cost Rodolfo seems unwilling to pay. Yet if love doesn't conquer all, as the circle comes full, and closes, it's better to have loved and lost than to have loved and run away. For a love of art, or for another, might well break your heart, but it's still the only risk worth taking. Merūnas Vitulskis (Rodolfo) and Celine Byrne (Mimi) in Irish National Opera's La Bohème. Image, Ros Kavanagh Featuring a stellar ensemble, INO's concert performance, (streamed live from the stage of the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on March 13), delivers an operatic tour de force. While formal dress in a concert setting risks undermining the evocation of character, such limiting restrictions are successfully negotiated. Even so, singers often seem chomping at the bit to physically express themselves, engage with one another, and make better use of the stage. Leaving you to speculate blindly as to what might have been had not the nightmare that is COVID prevented a full scale production. A huge shame, even allowing that the enforced conditions facilitated INO's first venture into recording. Differences in operatic recordings might lie in subtleties and nuances, but twins are defined by what distinguishes them, not by what they share. On the evidence of this performance, INO's La Bohème is a recording you will not want to be without. Sergio Alapont conducts the Irish National Opera Orchestra in Irish National Opera's La Bohème. Image, Ros Kavanagh Conducting with the rigour and delicacy of a master at a Zen tea ceremony, Sergio Alapont marshals INO's Orchestra with aplomb, with each giving an invested and exquisite performance. If the conversational, call and response structure of Puccini's singing favours duet and ensemble, (with INO making surprisingly effective use of off stage singing) it draws greater attention to those individual moments when singers get to shine. Tilt the balance fractionally and solos can stick out like a sentimental sore thumb. Yet get it right, and they resemble jewels resting on musical velvet. From soloists to ensemble, to the chorus placed strategically throughout the COVID conscious auditorium, INO get it right with uncanny consistency. Bass John Molloy's Colline, baritone Ben McAteer's Schaunard, and baritone Eddie Wade's Benoit all delight. Tenor Merūnas Vitulskis as Rodolfo sings superbly, and his rendering of the suave and seductive Che gelida manina is an absolute treat. Baritone David Bizic's muscular Marcello, and soprano Anne Devin's marvellous Musetta, shine resplendently in an already radiant ensemble. Anne Devin (Musetta) in Irish National Opera's La Bohème. Image, Ros Kavanagh Then there's soprano Celine Byrne. As the emotional lynchpin around which everything coalesces, the role of Mimi makes considerable demands, dramatically as well as vocally. Not least because Mimi's loving beyond all measure risks her seeming like a naive Disney princess out of place in a world of feckless men and calculating women. Indeed, while unquestionably one of opera's greatest death scenes, the excess of melodramatic sentiment during Mimi's demise risks, as Oscar Wilde once remarked of Dickens' Little Nell, it being impossible to experience without laughing. If her Mimi skirts close to the tipping point, Byrne smartly avoids it, trading easy sentiment for an emotional rawness whose vulnerability proves irresistible. Indeed, vocally and dramatically, Byrne is both breathtaking and magnetic. From Si. Mi Chiamano Mimi, to Donde lieta usci, and everywhere in between, Byrne's Mimi burns brightly, whether soaring the scales or beckoning Rodolfo with an alluring curve of her finger. Soprano Celine Byrne. Image by Shane McCarthy Unapologetically romantic, the unforgiving might deny La Bohème its deft touches of realism, but even they can't deny its complexity of character. There are no heroes or villains here. Just flawed, fully fledged human beings trying, failing, failing to try, and trying too hard to enjoy all that life has to offer. With their dives, dreams, and their 'damn the world, we're making life into art' attitude, Puccini's bohemians sing to the punks of the 1970s. Or the New Romantics of the 1980s. Or to any bright young things of today, or yesterday, ready to risk it all for art or love. If suffused, somewhat, by the nostalgic glow from golden days in the sunshine of a happy youth, La Bohème is never afraid to show that the gold of youth is sometimes tarnished, and its days prone to spells of inclement weather. Yet it is living and loving large that makes life worthwhile. Ultimately, La Bohème still resonates by singing to those foolish enough to risk, or remember, loving and giving of themselves with utter surrender. And to those greater fools too afraid of the cost to risk it. Don't be a fool. There have been many Mimis; there is only one Celine Byrne. Surrender to Byrne's memorable Mimi, and fall in love with Irish National Opera's La Bohème. La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini, libretto by Guiseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, after Henri Murger's book Scènes de la vie de Bohème, presented by Irish National Opera in partnership with Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, is available online till March 20. For more information visit Bord Gáis Energy Theatre or Irish National Opera

The Here Trio

The Here Trio

The Here Trio Digital Film. Image by Luca Truffarelli. Live performance often suffers more than succeeds when transferring to the screen. Dance, however, has often enjoyed a more amenable relationship with the medium. Exploring that relationship, Liz Roche's digital film The Here Trio, juxtaposes recorded scenes from a performance of The Here Trio in the MAC, Belfast, from February 2020 (with dancers Ryan O'Neill, Sarah Cernaux and Lucia Kickham) with a reimagined live performance in front of, and in direct response to, those scenes (the live performance featuring O'Neill once more, with Justine Cooper and Glòria Ros Abellana). The entire process being filmed by Luca Truffarelli, also responsible for sound design. If conceptually intriguing, visually the outcome is often less so as a series of moments mirror and echo, remember and reinterpret what once was to create a new now. Embedded in Stephen Dodd's brooding, ponderous lighting design in which even the light seems made of shadow. Through a series of stop start moments divided musically as well as visually, with Bryan O'Connell's soundtrack defined by white noise and archetypal percussions, text, more than movement or image, initially establishes expectations. A dancer's long, slow walk towards the onscreen image is overlaid by words spoken with robotic lifelessness. Delivering vapid musings aspiring to insight lodged uncomfortably between the philosophic and poetic. Motifs repeated about bodies in space, scars as triggers, and not being fully here all lack rigour and depth while simultaneously feigning both. Like late night ponderings voiced after a particular good night, you know something's being said, it's just not as clever nor as interesting, when you try to unpack it, as it thinks it sounds. The Here Trio Digital Film. Image by Luca Truffarelli. Throughout, the camera's eye is never neutral. If Truffarelli appears unobtrusive while making his presence felt, you have to wonder what might have been had Truffarelli also directed, or shown a little less reverence. For Roche's direction doesn't so much frame her rich choreography so much as constrict it. Layering the screen with the performance space before it, both inform each other yet always remain separate. A series of solos highlights the artificiality of this layering, speaking smartly to the relationship between live dance and the filming of it. To the manner in which movement is framed, given more energy, yet loses something trapped in translation. In attempting a conversation between the screened there and then and a live here and now, the parameters of what is being relayed, remembered, reinterpreted and reimagined is conceptually interesting, if not always visually riveting. A series of short solos, and the final synchronised sequence, prove a choreographic delight. Yet some fusions don't work, or don't work well enough, looking ragged and not quite as sharp. Restricted to limited angles, and to a screen in which a smaller, green coloured screen recycles selected images from an older performance seems like an opportunity missed. While also suggesting that the original performance, in this instance, was the better. Often by virtue of relating more clearly to things other than itself. A snare The Here Trio never quite frees itself from nor exploits enough, even as it aspires to speak to borders, boundaries and belonging. As it fades to black you're left with a sense of a job well, if not memorably done. And with a craw for live performance. The Here Trio Digital Film. Image by Luca Truffarelli. The Here Trio's conversational interplay between the screened and the live, the once lived and the relived, makes for some revealing moments. Alas they are far too few to be truly impressive or challenging. For long periods the framing feels stiff and heavy handed, even if beautifully edited, as the COVID straight-jacket makes its presence felt. Even so, The Here Trio is a film and not simply a recording of dance under lockdown. If it does credit to both Truffarelli and Roche at times, some tracts do neither any great favours for feeling weighted and trapped and barely able to breathe. Begging the question of what a sympathetic director with a love of dance, steeped in the language of the visual medium, might have done. Its sluggishness may speak to the current difficulties of making art under COVID, or to a dancer directing a movie. Either way, if it looks good, and it can look very good at moments, it rarely looks great. Something both Roche and Truffarelli are clearly capable of. The Here Trio, by Liz Roche Company, co-produced with Maiden Voyage Dance and screened in partnership with Project Arts Centre, Tipperary Dance Platform and Dance Limerick premiered online on March 4 and is available online till March 6. For more information visit Project Arts Centre.

20 Shots of Opera

20 Shots of Opera

Raphaela Mangan and Rachel Croash in Close. Photo Ste Murray. ***** Be it Dublin, London, or New York, Irish National Opera's online delight, 20 Shots of Opera, has had many reaching for superlatives. As well they should. Comprised of twenty short pieces up to ten minutes in length, commissioned from a gender balanced mix of twenty composers, each work intentionally engages with the screen rather than trying to replicate a live experience. Playing with dissonance, tonality, and loops, using animation, splits screens, and innovative camera angles, the end results are joyous, heart breaking, weird, and somewhat wonderful. With each work having its own Youtube slot, allowing easier navigation without unnecessary scrolling, it's less an opera parade so much as an opera hand grenade. Exploding expectations and showing remarkable innovation, 20 Shots of Opera delivers extraordinary moments of music, singing and design. A series of recurring themes soon emerge, with COVID both directly and indirectly dominating. Robert Coleman's The Colour Green (text Mark Boyle) speaks to the new normal of creating work under lockdown conditions. Andrew Hamilton's erth upon erth also speaks to COVID with a deliciously dark twist at the end. As does Dichotomies of Lockdown by Jenn Kirby, again with a delightful last second sting in the tail. The Colour Green. Image from stream. Touch, by Karen Power (text Ione), explores social distancing, as does Glaoch by Linda Buckley (text Doireann Ní Ghríofa), highlighting its pains and perils as soprano Sarah Shine, and mezzo-soprano Gemma Ní Bhriain, negotiate the heartbreaking restrictions of online communication. Hannah Peel's darlingly charming Close (text by Stella Feehily) finds soprano Rachel Croash, and mezzo-soprano Raphaela Mangan, turning in terrific performances, along with a stunningly sung duet, as two women meeting for a first date under social distancing. For those who like a little less COVID in their lockdown viewing, 20 Shots of Opera offers a gamut of experiences as diverse as they are memorable. Concerns for the environment feature in Irene Buckley's Ghost Apples (text Jessica Traynor), and again in Dust, with music and text by Benedict Schlepper-Connolly, lamenting the loss and destruction of the environment. Psychological states find voice in Éna Brennan's Rupture, which might initially evoke a Disney lightness, before everything spilts to become a recognisable nightmare, the layered singing sounding superb. Peter Fahey's eerily moving Through and Through finds a haunting Daire Halpin being visually and vocally mesmerising, which Annabelle Comyn directs with style. The Gift by Evangelia Rigaki, with libretti by Marina Carr, strays into familiar Carr territory of daddy and daughter issues. Emma O’Halloran's, The Wait, (text Mark O'Halloran) journeys into dark, and often disturbing spaces. Carolyn Dobbin & Emma Nash in A Message for Marty. Image from stream. Loss finds its voice in A Message for Marty, (or 'The Ring') by Conor Mitchell, which sees soprano Emma Nash, and mezzo-soprano Carolyn Dobbin, revealing that the only thing more dangerous than a woman scorned is her over protective sister. At A Loss by Micheal Gallen mediates death and electricity like a secular hymn. In Her Name by Alex Dowling, with text by Mark O’Halloran, sees superb boy soprano, Seán Hayden, deliver a sensitive portrayal capturing the loneliness of living through grief in a boarding school. Throughout, there's often a thrilling juxtaposition between a largesse in sound and the banality of textual details. Between the dissonant in music and the harmonious in voice. Often it's the unexpected that yields the fresher experience, or something that's just wonderfully quirky. The Patient Woman by Conor Linehan sees text by Louis Lovett channelling his nostalgic leanings a la Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, poking playful fun at both Hollywood noir and opera. Jennifer Walshe's Libris Solar features a doughnut loving Claudia Boyle deftly directed by Tom Creed, and Gráinne Mulvey's unsettling La Corbière (text by Anne Le Marquand Hartigan), finds soprano Mairéad Buicke and mezzo-soprano Anne Marie Gibbons as little more than voices and footsteps in the mist. Gerald Barry's laundry driven tirade Mrs. Streicher, inspired by letters from Beethoven, laments the real miseries of the world, like lost laundry and poor servants. Amelie Metcalfe & Brenton Ryan in The Patient Woman. Image from stream. Much of 20 Shots of Opera's success lies in embracing the online visual medium, even if several exhibit a fetish for extreme close-ups of eyes, lips, and teeth. Indeed, underscoring some magnificent singing by some of opera's brightest stars lies a hugely fruitful collaboration with the technical team and directors. Katie Davenport (costume), Paul Keogan (lights), Luca Truffarelli (video design), and Sarah Bacon (production design), all make significant contributions. Along with directors Annabelle Comyn, Stephanie Dufresne, Joe Mangan, Tom Creed, Aoife Spillane-Hinks, Muireann Ahern, Davey Kelleher, Sarah Baxter and Hugh O' Connor (also series director). Conductors Elaine Kelly and Fergus Shiel, conducting the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, also deliver some sterling work, the latter, as INO's artistic director, having every reason to be particularly pleased. Irish National Opera is still in its infancy at two years old. Yet already it's cementing its reputation as an international opera company for the 21st century. Perhaps what 20 Shots of Opera challenges most are lazy assumptions about what opera is or should be, as well as how best to go about presenting it online. If one of the less inspiring outcomes of COVID has been the often disappointing manner in which performance has been translating online, 20 Shots of Opera struts about the medium in all its operatic majesty and owns it by embracing it. True, it will never replace live performance. Yet these are more than simply short films infused with a music video sensibility, being more akin to miniature operatic experiences. Each achieving what it sets out to do on its own terms. Like a more-ishly rich box of chocolates, 20 Shots of Opera ensures the taste hits keep on coming. Naturally, some flavours will be more to some people's liking, and others won't seem as appealing. But that's the point of a box of chocolates: they cater for a range of tastes. Whether sweet, sour, or savoury, each hit in this operatic chocolate box has been prepared to perfection with considerable love and care. You never know, tasting something outside of your comfort zone might reveal a new delight. 20 Shots of Opera by Irish National Opera, will be online for the remainder of the 2021 For more information visit Irish National Opera

Happy Days

Happy Days

Happy Days by Samuel Beckett Presented by Olympia Theatre and Landmark Productions photo Patrick Redmond *** "No better, no worse, no pain, no change." In many respects Samuel Beckett's seminal work Happy Days is the perfect play for today. Indeed, many of Beckett's images and lines appear to have been written specifically with lockdown in mind. A woman buried up to her waist, then neck, unable to go anywhere, lives in denial that life offers unending tedium on repeat. A theme that cuts searingly close to the proverbial lockdown bone. Yet if the Olympia Theatre and Landmark Productions offer a play for today, it’s one whose naughty seaside postcard polish looks decidedly out of date. Design by Jamie Vartan, looking like Dollymount Strand after a deluge, finds Winnie wiling away her days following an angelus like bell dragging her to consciousness every morning. The prayers mightn't be working but Winnie doesn't like to complain. But she's going to anyway, and reminisce, ponder and speculate. Resembling a postcard cartoon of a woman trapped in the sand, and behaving like a gopher, or mole, popping up to speculate on the world, Winnie soon finds there's nothing new under the sun. Her barely present husband, Willie, reinforces her sense of isolation more than easing her life of fleeting joys and lasting woes. Still, happy days! Directed by Caitríona McLaughlin, Happy Days, aims high but plods ponderously along at a pedestrian pace, never quite finding its rhythm. Visually, an invested Siobhán McSweeney as Winnie, and Marty Rae as Willie, resemble a married couple from an old British seaside postcard. Or a Carry On movie. Or a classic British sitcom. The result often akin to listening to Keeping up Appearances' Hyacinth Bucket trying to dream herself into a reality that simply doesn’t exist, accompanied by her long suffering and selectively deaf husband. An approach which proves limiting rather than liberating, lending little more than a cheeky frame to the sexual undertones. If McKenna endears easily, Winnie often feels emotionally corralled into narrow reflective tones, with momentary emotional outbursts often looking out of place. Performed live before becoming available online might not have been the wisest move in hindsight, with the experience hardly enhanced by the knowledge of the action happening in real time. Indeed, trying to resolve freezing and other streaming issues detracted considerably. As did the use of fixed cameras recording the event live, tediously rotating the same few angles. One has to admire any artist, or company, attempting to make work in the current climate, and Landmark and The Olympia Theatre's production of Happy Days is on the money in speaking to COVID and the experience of lockdown. Yet while speaking to Covid, it speaks to little else. Constrained by its pace and framing, there's a sense of so much more here that could have been unearthed. Winnie might like to speak in the old style, but Happy Days gets bogged down in it. Happy Days by Samuel Beckett, presented by The Olympia Theatre and Landmark Productions, is available online till midnight, Monday, February 1. For further information visit Olympia Theatre. Supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media as part of the Pilot Live Performance Support Scheme

Canaries

Canaries

Eavan Gaffney in Canaries. Image uncredited. In his most recent instalment for Musings In Intermissions critic Chris McCormack astutely posted something obvious. Astute because it's an obvious that's not always recognised. Namely that Louise Lowe could be considered a master playwright. It's understandable why this might be hard to recognise given Lowe's collaborative way of working with ANU and the kind of theatre she makes, her reputation as a director and artistic director, the fact she rarely, if ever, credits herself as writer, and because she has something of an aversion to the limelight. One can readily imagine her cringing in discomfort at any hint of attention, heaven forbid a compliment. But the truth is Lowe is something of a master playwright. In fact, when it comes to making theatre, she's something of a genius. A trait that extends to her capacity for making film, as her short movie Canaries, showing online as part of The Pumphouse Presents, makes all too clear. Set during the years 1915 to 1918, Lowe's minor epic follows two girls, Mae and Florence, working in the Dublin Dockyard Munitions Factory in Dublin Port making shells for the British Army during World War One. Their health and safety is low on the company's agenda, whose working conditions leave both girls exposed to the risk of aplastic anaemia and toxic jaundice. The latter turning worker's skin yellow, giving rise to their nickname, canaries. An explosion at the Kynoch cordite factory in Arklow in 1917, killing twenty-eight people, ignites in Florence a desire to fight for proper working conditions. But Mae is fearful of the backlash, given that being a woman in a man's world is already hard enough. The money she makes at the factory, and the independence it lends her, being better than anything she's ever known. Even if she is being slowly poisoned. While being a master of anything recognises significant achievement, no master is ever perfect. Canaries, too, is often far from perfect, even if its strengths far outweigh its less successful moments. As in other works by ANU and Lowe, there's a conscious intention to reclaim forgotten histories married to an impeccable attention to historical detail. Along with a less than seamless join between personal stories and political messaging, a strained dichotomy that often informs ANU's work. Railing against the abuse of workers, and soldiers, Lowe's political message often elbows its way centre stage courtesy of the worn out rhetoric of trade unionism. Acknowledging that such language was likely to raise the roof in 1917, and even allowing for Lowe sharing similar political convictions today, the homogenised rhetoric sounds like something tagged on by a staunchly insistent committee member to ensure we got the point. Sounding hollow when compared to how Lowe's characters talk about foxtrots, moisturiser, or their husband returning from war, their language rich and personal, making the same political statements far more effectively when characters themselves are the message. When it comes to story, the short scened narrative doesn't quite find its way home, and the heavy handed metaphor of a living canary does it no favours. Yet a side story of a soldier returning from Gallipoli adds cohesion, depth and texture. Still, one senses that story was never the intended focus. What Canaries offers is a sensitive study of two women, beautifully articulated by Lowe's glorious visual vocabulary. A smile, a glance, a frown, all craft something that fills the screen from a multitude of angles, then reaches out beyond it to haul you in. For if the set needs to be singular on account of Covid, Lowe's cinematic aspirations are always pushing at the possibilities. Throughout, Lowe frequently subverts an accommodating naturalism with moments of dance and movement, lending Canaries a Terence Davies arthouse vibe. One in which the ordinary and extraordinary sit side by side informing each other. Yet Lowe can't take all the credit, nor would she want to. ANU's impressive presence in the form of Owen Boss (design), Lynnette Moran and Matt Smyth (producers), Leanna Cuttle (Line Producer) and Maree Kearns (costumes) is evident throughout. Yet the real stars are relative newcomers Aggi O'Casey as Mae, and Eavan Gaffney as Florence in what is not just inspired casting it's, what's that word again, genius. O'Casey and Gaffney love the camera and the camera adores them in return. Capturing Florence and Mae's inner worlds, they convey their closest secrets with such composure and conviction it almost feels like a betrayal. If there's a sense, on occasion, that Lowe corrals her characters into becoming mouthpieces for another history and politics lesson, O'Casey and Gaffney ensure we never loose sight of two young women forced to live, work, and die under impossible conditions. A master constantly works at perfecting their craft. Or, in this instance, crafts. Playwright, director, teacher, theatre maker, and currently film maker, Lowe can probably make a mean lasagne too, all while juggling cats. Limits being something she has little respect for. With Canaries, Lowe appears to be testing the cinematic waters, and the omens could be worrying for some. Visually moving in places, showing undeniable promise, film's gain might well be theatre's loss if Lowe and ANU decide to pursue this avenue. For Canaries is bursting with promise, Lowe's cinematic short story showing both range and depth despite an impressive visual economy. From the opening scene where Irish and British flags are being positioned, Canaries strives towards cinematic poetry and often gets there. Canaries also delivers an early Christmas present with O'Casey and Gaffney, both equally capable of setting the world alight. Catch them now in two gorgeously judged performances, exquisitely shot by Lowe, before the fanfare starts. Canaries' history might be stronger than its story, but it's always heartfelt and beautiful to look at. And you also get Sinéad Diskin's superb, heart aching score thrown in, like an extra special Christmas treat. Canaries, written and directed by Louise Lowe and presented by ANU Productions, runs as part of Dublin Port Company's The Pumphouse Presents till December 23. Available free of charge as a gift from Dublin Port, donations will be accepted towards a new artist development fund to be managed by Axis Ballymun. For more information visit Dublin Port Company.

Theatre for One

Theatre for One

Theatre for One - Kate Gilmore in Queen of the Pyramids. Image Jed Niezgoda. Theatre. At least one person in a space performing to at least one other person. As definitions go it’s workable enough, though you'll probably need a considerable amount of time to unpack it. Still, it also serves as a workable definition for a peepshow. The kind that dominated Times Square in the good old bad old days, or pop up in a mid 80s Madonna video. Most importantly, it's a definition that comes close to a serving as a succinct description for Landmark Theatre and Octopus Theatricals brilliant Theatre for One, which uses the peepshow format for its own theatrical gains. Delivering six monologues of five to ten minutes duration, Theatre for One makes it painfully clear why there is no substitute for live theatre. Theatre for One might feel homegrown, but it's an Irish twist on an American import. Tony award winning designer Christine Jones, originally created and designed Theatre of One along the lines of a peepshow in 2010, setting it up in Times Square where peepshows once abounded. Even so, this is strictly an Irish affair, featuring works from Emmet Kirwan, Stacey Gregg, Marina Carr, Louise Lowe, Mark O'Rowe and Enda Walsh. A line-up featuring representatives from the literary cream of the crop; Kate Gilmore, Kathy Rose O'Brien, Sean McGinley, Úna Kavanagh, Derbhle Crotty and Peter Campion speak to the same calibre in performance, delivering superb character studies you're not ever likely to forget. Taking place in what looks like a post-modern Tardis having crash landed in the socially distanced Abbey foyer, the audience is escorted into a small, red cushioned interior and sat facing a glass pane surrounded by mirror lights. A sliding screen obscures the far side of the room. The door closes, the room darkens, the screen slides back and so begins the first brief journey. And it's live. Exhilaratingly, refreshingly, couldn't be done any other way live. It might be tempting to think Theatre for One's one on one format lends itself to easy translation online, but the immediacy, intimacy, and importance of the performer's physical presence a few feet away is vital and inescapable. Zoom just won't cut it. Theatre for One - Kathy Rose O'Brien in Brilliant by Stacey Gregg. Image Image Jed Niezgoda. Due to the huge demand for tickets, it was only possible to catch Queen of the Pyramids by Emmet Kirwan, featuring Kate Gilmore, Brilliant by Stacey Gregg, featuring Mary Rose O'Brien, and Cygnum Canticum by Marina Carr, featuring Sean McGinley, all three superbly directed by Srđa Vasiljević. Of which any one is enough to blow you away and leave you screaming for more. Whether it's being enthralled by an effervescent Gilmore with her black eye, psycho-terrorist, and a need to hide what she means; or sit with a heart wrenching O'Brien as a struggling new mother recognising the hugeness in small mercies; or listening to a contemplative McGinley speaking to the recesses of the soul, the experience is unutterably powerful. Moving, intimate, visceral, the superlatives line up like people queueing for tickets. Those lucky enough to secure one will also come away with a new found, awestruck appreciation for the skill and craft of the performer. Brought television close, eyes can sear or be stained with tears. Words are conveyed by a controlled vocabulary of tone, gesture and expression that's beguiling to behold. At times the intensity can feel like who'll blink first. But you would never bet on yourself winning this game of chicken. For those averse to text based, naturalist drama, Theatre for One's up close and confessional stylings might feel like a gimmick. One that indulges in manipulative, soft-core, emotional porn. Even if that were true, it offers so much more, being a theatrical experience bigger than sum of its stories. Theatre for One is a breath of theatrical fresh air. Not just because it's live performances provide some much needed light in the theatrical dark of recent months, but because Theatre for One is a profoundly affecting experience. Theatre has enjoyed too few wins this year. Theatre for One is a winner. And it is not to be missed under any circumstances. Theatre for One by Landmark Productions and Octopus Theatricals, presented by The Abbey Theatre and Dublin Theatre Festival, supported by Accenture and Dublin City Council, runs at The Abbey Theatre until December 23. One ticket admits to one play. To see multiple plays, multiple tickets will need to be booked. For further information on Theatre for One, and on Theatre for One (and a Little One), visit The Abbey Theatre.

Alternatively Terrific & Gentle

Alternatively Terrific & Gentle

Justine Cooper, Jenny Roche, and Liz Roche. Image by José Miguel Jiménez. You can make an audio recording of a concert, play, or book. Audio recording dance really isn't an option. Dance is primarily a visual medium, which has further restricted its creative options under Covid. With necessity being the mother of invention, Liz Roche Company re-invented their latest work, Alternatively Terrific & Gentle in response to social distancing. A work in which choreographers and performers Jodi Melnick (New York), Liz Roche (Dublin) and Jenny Roche (Limerick), with Justine Cooper substituting for Melnick in performance, set out to remake the idea of performance in an effort to explore the relationship between living beings and the natural world. Seeing the body and nature as sites of constant change, and of creation and destruction, they set out to create an initial dance piece to serve as a starting point for collaborative responses from a number of choreographers and performers from across the globe. Inspiration arising from an array of texts, music, letters and visual art, the title taken from a love letter from composer John Cage to choreographer Merce Cunningham where he describes the intensity of rain one afternoon as “alternately terrific and gentle.” So much for the blurb. The reality being, as T.S. Eliot once remarked, a case of there being more to the poem than the poet knows themselves. Begun in 2019 and intended for a live audience, Alternatively Terrific & Gentle was completed during lockdown, and its nine short films frequently find the medium itself becoming the message. A work whose visual framing, particularly by José Miguel Jiménez, often dominates what's being framed. Including some terrific soundscapes by Robert Boston. Paul Whyte. Image uncredited. Featuring one trio, along with a selection of duos and solos, its possible to jump into Alternatively Terrific & Gentle at any given point. Sequentially, however, the series begins with dancers Justine Cooper, Jenny Roche, and Liz Roche establishing the initial movement sequence which informs all that follows. As the dancers prepare, silence is warmed by laughter creating a sense of rehearsal and discovery that permeates many sequences that follow. Yet from the get-go the dancing body is made subservient to the gaze of the camera which seems more intent on its own processes. As a result, the sheer gorgeousness of Jiménez cinematography ends up suggesting a high end, teaser trailer for a production you really should go and see. Close to the four minute mark things become far more interesting as Boston's sublime score kicks in and the dancers begin in earnest. Patterns emerge and are shared, and with no contact taking place between dancers the sense of distance is reinforced. Making the most poignant space the distance between dancers who never meet. Gently subverted during a wonderfully flowing mirrored sequence in which a momentary synchronicity is achieved. It might only be temporary, but it's a moment infused with hope and memory. Colin Dunne. Image by José Miguel Jiménez Throughout, Jiménez's camerawork doesn't so much frame the experience as interpret it, focusing the eye where the camera wants it to go when it may want to linger elsewhere. As a result the camera becomes too much an interpretive spectator to constitute a fourth collaborator, like a person watching a movie and explaining to you what it's about. A far more effective synergy is achieved when movement converses with Boston's minimalist score, which harmonises beautifully with the dancers movements. Even so, when it's all over, you come away feeling you've seen only part of it. The rest lying just beyond the periphery of vision. Or the camera lens. An attempt later on to suggest what the live installation might have been like had it gone ahead falls short under Jiménez music video sensibility. Fractured, fragmented, using split screens and often shot at distance, the sense of three dancers occupying the same space is lost to the camerawork. Even if Jude Foley's haunting vocals add another level of engagement. The template now established, the second sequence sees dancer Paul Whyte responding in a corner. Here Pippa Samaya's camera takes a fixed position, for the most part, and leaves Whyte free rein to do his thing. Moving in beams of light which craft birdlike shadows, later deepening into an inky dark, a sense of nature is wonderfully established. Boston's agitated score, channelling the spirit of Evan Parker in places, haunts with a synth like drone as Whyte's body shifts in and out of shadows; momentarily here, partially there, then disappeared; the unsettling agitation of music and movement softened by their directness, crafting a simple yet intriguing piece. Mufutau Yusuf. Image uncredited. The challenges of creative discovery are made visible in Colin Dunne's sensitive response. Once again, Jiménez's camera attempts to play with the space between spectator and collaborator only to reinforce it. If the camera takes a more fixed position at times, the meta-use of half screens and split screens often distract from Dunne who appears to struggle with the creative process, his isolation and vulnerability captured with an almost documentary style beauty. For those for whom the creative process itself constitutes work, there is much to relate to here. For those more interested in the work arising out of that process, there's a sense of being teased with fragments from a work in development that still remains unfinished. None of which is to be found in Mufutau Yusuf's superb solo where the discovered looms larger than the process of discovery without ever eclipsing it. A fluid body rendered almost insignificant by vast swathes of impersonal concrete, Yusuf is the only living soul with nowhere or nothing to connect to. A last man on earth speaking superbly to the loneliness and isolation of social distancing with a simplicity that is never simplistic. Easy, repeated gestures executed against a lifeless concrete landscape; the emptied space becomes Yusuf's partner and competitor. As does Boston's excellent, piano driven score. Davide Belotti's camera and editing is always informed by Yusuf's presence and movements, offering an extremely satisfying sense of collaborative effort in which medium clearly serves both message and messenger without sacrificing its own presence. Malcolm Low and Jodi Melnick. Image uncredited. Just past the half way mark and a series of brief duets featuring Jodi Melnick find her playing against stark landscapes. In Church & Salt dancer Colin Dunne appears to extend his solo piece into a duet in which he dances alone in a church whilst Melnick dances alone before a mountain of salt. Ever upright and erect, feet shuffling and sliding dominate both sequences, with both dancers eventually juxtaposed by a split screen. Quarry, featuring Melnick and Malcolm Low, takes place, aptly enough, in a quarry. In which Jiménez edits camera work by Dean Villarini and Art Becofsky into a dissonant series of contrasting images where the immensity of the space often smudges the dancers into blurs in the distance. Dissonance mirrored by Boston's uncharacteristically overbearing score that plays with, and against, movement. At times resembling an avant garde music video, at others looking like the latest upload on Tik Tok, a sense of the dwarfed body battling an immense landscape permeates both works. Two text driven pieces round out Alternatively Terrific & Gentle on something of whimper. Rachel Donnelly might claim to think more in images than words when it comes to memory and emotion, but it's imagery that tips its hat a little too neatly at Krapp's Last Tape. Nor is the irony escaped that despite Donoghue's assertion, Liv O’Donoghue frequently finds Donnelly's words drowning out the images. Efforts to force the observer to create their own images feel contrived, as does the horror movie style ending. Maïa Nunes. Image uncredited A soundscape and performance by Maïa Nunes opens like a soulful dirge or poetic incantation. Yet it soon becomes dull for proving visually uninteresting, resembling stills from the live action version of Jungle Book. Full of Disney friendly, hip hop meditations on rain and ancestors, its erotically breathy soundscape deserves far better. Trying too hard to not try too hard, it doesn't try hard enough in places where it should. Spending an inordinate amount of time focusing on Nunes' back, it almost seems as if she's trying to shun the audience. Less art installation so much as the artist as installation, Nunes is often far more interesting than her words and lyrics, as a short, close-up sequence evidences, suggesting what might have been. Alternatively Terrific & Gentle speaks to spaces, music, and to movement dominated by a sense of discovery and process. And to art being shaped more than captured by the camera lens. As for the benefits of collaboration, viewed sequentially, Alternatively Terrific & Gentle begins with a dance piece and ends with a glorified music video with lots of posing and very little movement. Along the way it finds some interesting compliments and contrasts, and some not so interesting ones. Seeking multiple responses and a plurality of viewpoints, it's bound together by a featherweight chain not nearly robust enough to unite into a collective whole, and so never achieves that something greater than its individual parts. A testament, perhaps, to the importance of live performance, which might well have brought everything together. As it stands, Alternatively Terrific & Gentle might seek a new way of creating a performance, but it's a way wherein dance and movement often become its victims, looking like the poor relations of performance art and the camera. Even so, Alternatively Terrific & Gentle speaks poignantly to the isolation of artists under Covid. Reason enough for those who bought tickets to the cancelled live installation to hopefully not request refunds. Alternatively Terrific & Gentle by Liz Roche Company was streamed online Sunday, December 14. For more information visit Liz Roche Company

Mezzo Masterpieces #3 Paula Murrihy

Mezzo Masterpieces #3 Paula Murrihy

Mezzo-Soprano Paula Murrihy. Image from stream. Mozart is certainly Irish National Opera's flavour of December. Following on from INO's concert performance of his German language opera The Abduction from the Seraglio, INO conclude their Mezzo Masterpieces series with an Italian selection from Mozart sung by renowned Mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy. Once again the Office of Public Works provide another truly sumptuous setting, the iconic Kilkenny Castle, whose Picture Gallery is illuminated to perfection by Kevin Smith. Hosted by Fergus Shiel, whose soft spoken passion always leaves you eager to listen, Mezzo Masterpieces #3 makes it three for three for INO delivering another memorable evening of music and singing. Performing the overture to Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito Peter Whelan, conducting the Irish National Opera Orchestra, gets things off to a lively start. The arrival of Murrihy to sing Parto, parto, ma tiu ben mio, accompanied superbly by Conor Shiel on clarinet, transforms the room, the evening and the experience into something wholly other. Like playful, comic melodramas, many of Mozart's Italian operas plumb the emotional depths while also scaling comedic heights, living life loud and large and with near impossible vivacity. Something Murrihy captures sublimely with a series of stunning and invested performances, marrying a vocabulary of vivid visual expressions to her outstanding voice. Featuring an awful lot of trouser roles, Murrihy sings extracts from Così Fan Tutte, Le Nozze Di Figaro, Idomeno, and Don Giovanni, revelling as a consummate storyteller. Baritone, Seán Boylan, impressively singing Hai già vinta la causa from Le Nozze Di Figaro, and Fin ch'han dal vino from Don Giovanni, also delivers two physically invested performances. If all the world's a stage, Murrihy can create worlds and characters onstage with just a look, a smile, or by merely arching an eyebrow. Creating a story telling experience in which gestural mannerisms enrich her memorable singing, making for an intimate, almost immersive experience. Since the unwelcome arrival of Covid, INO have worked tirelessly to deliver quality opera experiences during 2020. Despite the rapid approach of the year's end, INO are not quite finished yet. With arguably their most innovative production so far 20 Shots of Opera will feature twenty newly commissioned short operas by twenty composers. In keeping with the spirit of the season, 20 Shots of Opera can be streamed free from December 17. Mezzo Masterpieces #3 featuring Mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy performing a selection from Mozart, was live streamed from The Picture Gallery, Kilkenny Castle on December 10 and is available online until December 23. 20 Shots of Opera, featuring twenty newly commissioned short operas by twenty composers can be streamed for free from December 17. For more information visit Irish National Opera.