Irish National Opera commits to Irish artists. Why not Covent Garden?

Irish National Opera commits to Irish artists. Why not Covent Garden?


norman lebrecht

January 18, 2018

The new INO had lift-off this week in Dublin.

Its artistic director Fergus Sheil said that the company ‘wants to give pride of place to Irish singers and celebrate their work at home in Ireland the way it is celebrated in leading opera houses around the world. We want to bring our creative talent to venues large and small, to communities around the country, and create thrilling experiences that will attract new audiences to our uniquely multi-faceted artform.’

Tours are planned to Cork, Dún Laoghaire, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, London, Navan, Sligo, Tralee and Wexford.

Now cross the Channel.

The Royal Opera House, which receives £25 million a year from the UK taxpayer, never leaves London.

And its policy for many years has been to train, advance and promote singers who are not British.

The best young British singers have to find training places abroad, mostly in the EU.

Those places may be closed to them after Brexit.

Your thoughts, please.



  • C Porumbescu says:

    Quite apart from the fact that no-one nowadays can set up a state-funded arts organisation without doing the requisite political flag-waving, I suspect Irish National Opera’s budget probably leaves them with little choice but to hire locally-based artists.

    Of course Ireland’s only existing opera company with a genuinely global reputation – Wexford Festival Opera – has long hired the best directors and performers without regard for nationality, and has thrived because of it.

  • Dominic Stafford says:

    Covent Garden does give opportunities to native talent; but it’s one of the great international houses and, to this end, must present the best international talent present at the time.

    Covent Garden does tour (again, internationally); but is not geared to be a touring company (there is an immense difference between grand opera and touring opera, after all).

    And the UK has, by the way, the following touring companies – and I am sure I have missed out several, who I am sure would not be best pleased to have their territory encroached upon by Covent Garden:

    Diva Opera
    English Touring Opera
    Glyndebourne Touring Opera
    Northern Ireland Opera
    Opera North
    Scottish Opera
    Welsh National Opera

    Fergus Shiel is doing a fine and admirable thing in Ireland, where many Irish artists struggle to get their start. I should also point out that, though both Irish National Opera and Wexford provide high quality opera, Dublin has, for decades, been thankful for the hard work and dedication of Vivian Coates and his Lyric Opera Company who have, against the odds, brought regular productions to the National Concert Hall and the Gaiety and instilled a love of opera in several generations of Dubliners.

  • Adrienne says:

    “The Royal Opera House, which receives £25 million a year from the UK taxpayer, never leaves London.”

    The ROH has tried on two occasions to establish a base in Manchester. I believe that, on the last occasion, the Lowry played apart in scuppering the plans.

    Threat to plan for Royal Opera House in the north

  • Alex Davies says:

    Population of the UK: 65.54 million. Population of the world: 7.6 billion. Admitted, of those 7.6 billion, not all are of nationalities associated with a strong tradition of training world-class opera singers, e.g. the Indian subcontinent (population: 1.71 billion), generally, the African continent (population: 1.23 billion), with the exception of South Africa, the Arabian peninsula (population: 78 million), etc. The Royal Opera House therefore has the opportunity to select singers from the whole of the Americas, the whole of Europe (including the whole of Russia, as well as Georgia and Armenia), South Africa, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, and more countries besides. Given that operatic singing talent is not disproportionately concentrated in the UK, it would seem improbable that the ROH would be fulfilling its remit to produce world-class opera if it were to source its talent from the UK and not from the full spectrum of nationalities among which opera has a strong tradition. I am not a statistician, but it seems more likely that more of the best singers will be American, German, or Russian than that they will be British. I therefore accept that the ROH’s recruitment practice is probably succeeding in sourcing the best talent in the world, which sometimes will be British, but more often will be foreign.

  • Saxon Broken says:

    Why should the ROH move anywhere. London is at the centre of the transport network and around a third of the UK population lives within easy reach.