NI Opera held�its programme launch in Ross's Auction Rooms in May Street.� This is the new regional opera company for Northern Ireland. It is funded by the Arts Council and it will build on the strengths of Castleward Opera and Opera Fringe.

The vision of the new company is to make opera more accessible to local audiences and to create better opportunities to develop home-grown talent.� In all its work it will seek to enthuse people about opera, make it easily available to them, and promote young Northern Ireland singers wherever possible – while offering the very best talent from further afield.

In addition to staging its own productions, NI Opera will work closely with regional partners to bring touring performances to venues across Northern Ireland.

The first public performance will be a Christmas concert with Camerata Ireland and NI Opera young singers.� Then in March 2011 the first fully-staged performances are at different locations around the historic walls in Londonderry, with a site-specific production of Tosca.

Susan Boyd, a mezzo soprano from county Antrim, sang at the launch and was accompanied by local pianist Michael McHugh.� There were also contributions from Oliver Mears, the new artistic director, Sir Desmond Rea and Barry Douglas, all of whom spoke about the opportunity afforded by this new development.

Afterwards I had the opportunity to chat with Oliver and was pleased to hear of his plans to make opera accessible to a wider audience.� Many people are 'intimidated' by opera for a variety of reasons eg they imagine that it is all going to be sung in a foreign language and they will�not understand it.� That�needs to be acknowledged and then addressed and I was pleased that Oliver spoke about such things as performances in English and�the use of new venues and locations,�such as the walls in Londonderry.

I believe that this new company will make opera more accessible to local audiences and create better opportunities to develop home-grown talent.� Northern Ireland has been producing world class talent for years. We need to continue to enthuse people about opera, make it easily available to them, and promote young local singers wherever possible – while offering the very best in talent from further afield.��

It is particularly encouraging to see that NI Opera will work with regional partners to bring touring performances to venues across Northern Ireland, which will further enhance the cultural offerings provided to local audiences.

The new company will have an office based in the Grand Opera House in Belfast but will produce its work region-wide.


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