Following the outstanding success of The Return of Ulysses at Kilkenny Arts Festival 2018, Opera Collective Ireland presented the World Première of Raymond Deane’s Vagabones. Based on Emma Donoghue’s stage adaptation of her 1996 radio play Trespasses, the opera with a libretto by Renate Debrun is a fictionalisation of the judge’s own account of the case of Florence Newton in Youghal – one of only a handful of witch trials that ever took place in Ireland. Set in the small Co. Cork town over three days in 1661, the opera works as a moving tale of conflicted human emotions and stratagems, while deftly touching on issues of gender, fundamentalism, imperialism and the clash of cultures.
An Opera Collective Ireland commission with funds from the Arts Council of Ireland.
“… an exciting offering from Opera Collective Ireland. Deane’s music is so sweetly distinctive, and Donoghue’s witch narrative creates a perfect scaffold for his dramatic instincts. A bewitching experience, in a 21st century sort of way.”
Independent.ie (September 2019)
“The singers give it their all, with impressive performances from mezzo-soprano Carolyn Holt as Florence; baritone Rory Musgrave as the Mayor of Youghal; Ross Scanlon as the twisted bailiff, John Pyne; soprano Sarah Power as the Pyne-inspired accuser and epileptic, Mary Longdon; bass-baritone Rory Dunne as the faith-healer and torturer, Valentine Greatrakes; and soprano Kelli-Ann Masterson as Florence’s cell-mate, Dónal O’Dare.”
Irish Times (September 2019)
“There is no other Irish composer as adept at this flexible, expressionistic approach and throughout the entire production the music and the singers seemed to move perfectly in sync with one another.”
“As Florence Newton – by far the most complex character in the opera – Carolyn Holt managed to negotiate the difficult challenge of this role, switching from moments of reflection with her young cellmate Dónal – sung by the excellent Kelli-Ann Masterson – to electric altercations with Rory Dunne as the mendacious Greatrakes. Playing the one unambiguously evil character in the opera, Dunne’s booming voice and big stage presence made him well cast in this role. Sarah Power was similarly well cast as Mary Longdon and her sensitive voice managed to convey her character’s pathetic weakness.”
“Vagabones marks another successful operatic venture and along with The Alma Fetish, can be considered one of the more convincing experiments in the recent boom of Irish operatic production.”
The Journal of Music (September 2019)
The author Emma Donoghue writes:
“In the mid 90s, when I came across the 1661 trial record of Florence Newton, the ‘Witch of Youghal’, what seized me was how rare a situation it illuminated – it’s one of only a tiny handful of Irish witch hunts – and how interesting the details were. The case grew out of Protestant/Catholic and settler/native misunderstandings and tensions that still affect the Northern Irish peace process (as well as the politics of other colonized nations) today. This story of a kiss that makes someone violently ill also asked questions about powerless women, what they might have to resort to for survival, and whether solidarity and tenderness might be possible between them. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible was one helpful reference, but also Brian Friel’s Translations.
The first incarnation of Trespasses was as a radio play for RTÉ, because my concept was “voices in the dark”: I wanted to see if I could explore Florence Newton’s persecution not in the dramatic spotlight of the courtroom drama but through three days of her imprisonment, so I gave her a fictional boy cellmate to talk to. I tried to make sense of the experiences that motivated the accuser, Mary Longdon, in terms both of epilepsy and her isolated position as an immigrant servant. When Trespasses moved on stage as a two-act theatre production, the story took on a more complex social quality as well as a vivid physicality. With this adaptation into the chamber opera Vagabones*, I am absolutely delighted that the tangled story of this troubled town is coming to life again in a whole new form.”
*Libretto by Renate Debrun.
Production photos © Frances Marshall – Marshall Light Studio
Raymond Deane was born in 1953 in the west of Ireland. He moved with his family to Dublin in 1963, and gained his B.Mus degree from University College Dublin in 1974. He studied composition in Bale with Gerald Bennett (1974-75), in Cologne with Karlheinz Stockhausen (1976- 77), and in West Berlin, with Isang Yun (1978-9). He taught piano and composition in Oldenburg, Germany, between 1984-86. He was elected to the Irish government-sponsored academy of artists Aosdána in 1986, returning to Ireland the following year.
He was featured composer (with G. Kurtag) at the 1991 Accents Festival in Dublin, and (with Roger Doyle) at the 1998 Sligo New Music Festival. His works have often represented Ireland at the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers, and his large orchestral work Ripieno won a special award at the 2000 Rostrum. His works have been commissioned by, among others, RTÉ (for the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland), the Irish Chamber Orchestra (three times), the Vanbrugh String Quartet, the Callino String Quartet, the Arditti String Quartet, the Schubert Ensemble of London, the bass-clarinettist Harry Sparnaay, the pianist Hugh Tinney (twice), the Nordlys Ensemble, etc. His chamber operas The Poet and his Double and The Wall of Cloud were commissioned by Opera Theatre Company. His full-scale opera The Alma Fetish was given its concert premiere by Wide Open Opera in Dublin’s NCH in 2013.
His novel Death of a Medium was published by Odell & Adair in 1992, and his memoir In My Own Light was published by Liffey Press in 2013. He has also published many articles down the years on music and politics.
He was artistic director of the first two RTÉ Festivals of Living Music, in 2002 and 2004. In 2005 he was awarded a Doctorate in Musical Composition by the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. CDs entirely devoted to his music have appeared on the Black Box, Naxos/Marco Polo, Resonus Classics and RTÉ labels.
Raymond Deane lives as a freelance composer in central Dublin, and spends part of the year in Fürth, Bavaria.
For more information read www.raymonddeane.com×
Renate Debrun is a German-born Irish artist based in Dublin. Vagabones is her first libretto.
She is a self-taught painter and printmaker and currently combines monotype print and mixed media drawing. She exhibits regularly; her work is represented in corporate and private collections in Ireland and abroad and can be seen at the Graphic Studio Gallery and Doorway Gallery in Dublin and the Kenny Gallery, Galway.
During her younger years she travelled widely, living in Mexico, the US, Spain and the UK while also completing an MA in languages and linguistics. She is multilingual and has worked at various times as an interpreter, translator and language assessor.
Renate also works part-time as a professional plantswoman and gardener in Dublin, and writes a weekly blog on gardening and wildlife on Facebook, titled Urban Gardener.
Ben Barnes is the founding Artistic Director of Opera Theatre Company for whom he directed The Turn of the Screw, Carmen, Orfeo (Monteverdi) and the 30th anniversary production of La bohème. He is a former Artistic Director of the Abbey Theatre (2000–2005) and currently consultant Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Waterford. He recently directed a critically acclaimed production of Madama Butterfly for Irish National Opera at the BGET and Cork Opera House and other opera work includes productions of Ormindo (Cavalli) and La finta giardiniera for RIAM at the Beckett, Rigoletto and La bohème, the Mozart trilogy The Marriage of Figaro, Così fan tutte and Idomeneo, Dialogues of the Carmelites and the première of The Invader. Ben’s theatre work has been seen all over the world most prominently in London, New York, Sydney, Chicago, Budapest, Toronto, Montréal, Moscow and St Petersburg. He has directed some thirty-five productions for the Abbey Theatre including Aristocrats and Translations (Friel), The Gigli Concert (Tom Murphy) and The Plough and the Stars (Dublin, London BITE). His productions for The Gate Theatre include Irish premières of Arcadia, Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Oleanna. He directs frequently in the United States most recently, Waiting for Godot, The Seafarer, and A Moon for the Misbegotten. He has won several Irish Times Awards for his work in Ireland and Masque and MECCA Awards for his productions in Canada. He is the author of Plays and Controversies about his artistic directorship of the national theatre. Following Vagabones Ben will direct a staged reading of the epic Strange Interlude at the O’Neill International Festival of Theatre and a new American production of Arthur Miller’s classic play, The Crucible.×
Irish conductor Sinéad Hayes is in her sixth season as conductor of Belfast’s Hard Rain Soloist Ensemble (HRSE), Northern Ireland’s professional contemporary music ensemble. In the 2018/19 season she was the conductor of Irish National Opera’s inaugural Opera Studio, working as assistant conductor and chorus master on all of INO’s main productions. Other highlights of last season included returns to Northern Ireland Opera to conduct two productions: Sweeney Todd and The Chronic Identity Crisis of Pamplemousse, as well as performances with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and HRSE.
Sinéad obtained her Master’s in conducting from the Royal Northern College of Music, winning the Mortimer Furber Conducting Prize. She graduated with a BMus in violin and composition from City University, London. Her teachers and masterclass mentors include Johannes Schlaefli, Clark Rundell, Peter Eötvös, Martyn Brabbins, Mark Shanahan, Alexander Ingram and Sir Mark Elder.
Plans for the 2019/20 season include conducting these première performances of Raymond Deane’s opera Vagabones, a new community opera by Elaine Agnew for Galway 2020, workshopping a new opera by Michael Gallen, projects with HRSE, and a project in collaboration with composer Neal Farwell exploring the interface between violin/fiddle and computer-led live electronics.×
Libby is a dance artist, choreographer, movement director and collaborator. She holds a Master’s in Dance and is a Laban graduate. She is the movement tutor on the Gaiety School of Acting’s professional actor-training course. Libby is a qualified Feldenkrais practitioner.
Movement directing credits include Madama Butterfly for Irish National Opera, La finta giardiniera and Ormindo for RIAM, La bohème and Monteverdi’s Orfeo for Opera Theatre Company, Eric Sweeney’s The Invader for Theatre Royal Productions, Waterford, Anáil na Beatha with visual artist Alanna O’Kelly as part of Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger, Noël with Eoin Colfer, Stormy Petrel An Post GPO: Witness History Public Art Commission, Closer Encounters and Re-imagining Beckett for Imagine Arts Festival.
As the Artistic Director of Animated State Dance Theatre and Arts Council-appointed Dance Artist in Residence (2010–2015) she has created a significant body of original dance theatre productions promoting dance as a unique, vital and accessible art form.×
A highly respected, award-winning Irish designer, Monica has designed the première productions for many celebrated Irish dramatists including Brian Friel, Tom Murphy, Frank McGuinness and Marina Carr. She has worked throughout Ireland, the UK, Australia, US and Europe. Her studio is based in Dublin.
Her designs have been staged by the Royal National Theatre, Abbey Theatre, Royal Court Theatre, Gate Theatre, Druid Theatre Company, Guthrie Theater (Minneapolis), Opera Ireland, CoisCéim Dance Theatre, Tricycle Theatre, Contact Theatre Manchester and Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh.
She won a London Time Out Theatre Award for At The Black Pig’s Dyke for Druid Theatre Company, an Irish Times Best Costume Design for The Taming of the Shrew for Rough Magic Theatre Company and an Irish Times Best Set Design for Heavenly Bodies. Other notable designs include the world première of By The Bog Of Cats and The Well of the Saints at the Abbey Theatre, Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice for Opera Ireland and Macbeth for The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis.
In the 2019 Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards Monica received the Judges’ Special Award in recognition of her work as one of Ireland’s most innovative and original set and costume designers for over 30 years.×
John Comiskey has worked extensively in theatre, music, film and television. He has won Best Design at the Irish Theatre Awards (for Copenhagen) and has been nominated several times for Best Lighting Design. His lighting designs for opera include Madama Butterfly (INO), L’Orfeo and La bohème (OTC), The Invader (Theatre Royal) and La finta giardiniera (RIAM). He curated and designed the first ever Irish participation at the Prague Quadrennial exhibition of world theatre design in 2007.
Film directing credits include the award-winning dance drama Hit and Run, documentaries on German singer Agnes Bernelle and the history of Ireland’s mental asylums, the recent two-part drama The Bailout, the original concert film of Celtic Woman, and the live transmission of the Eurovision Song Contest.
He was Associate Director on Centenary, RTÉ’s commemorative concert for the anniversary of 1916. He has had a lengthy association with Riverdance beginning with the original Eurovision Song Contest performance, followed by two years as Production Director worldwide of Riverdance – the Show and returning more recently as lighting designer.
Music projects have included Antarctica (with David Power and Linda Buckley), The Frost is All Over and The Well (with Tony MacMahon).×
A graduate of both the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama (BMus Hons) and The Bull Alley Theatre Training Company, the bass-baritone Rory Dunne has studied as both an actor and a classical singer.
His career has led him to work with Irish National Opera, Cork Opera, Northern Ireland Opera, Wide Open Opera, Opera Theatre Company, Lyric Opera Productions, Opera in the Open and the RTÉConcert Orchestra Chorus, performing roles in the Wexford Opera House, the National Concert Hall, the Cork Opera House, the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre and the Buxton Opera House.
He has been awarded prizes from Feis Ceoil, the Bernadette Greevy Bursary, Navan Choral Festival and the John McCormack Society, and the Northern Ireland Opera Glenarm Festival of Voice.
His roles have included Colline (La bohème),The Mikado (The Mikado), Monterone (Rigoletto), Haly (L’italiana in Algeri), Buck Mulligan (Eric Sweeney’s Ulysses), Dottore Grenvil (La traviata), Sciarrone (Tosca), Bartolo (Le nozze di Figaro), David (A Hand of Bridge), Boatswain (HMS Pinafore),Talpa (Il tabarro), Fiorello (Il barbiere di Siviglia) and Dancaire(Carmen).×
Carolyn Holt is a mezzo-soprano from County Kildare. She recently graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where her roles included Sister Helen Prejean in the UK staged première of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking. She graduated with Distinction from the Royal Academy of Music in 2017, where she was a Kohn Foundation Bach Scholar, and was awarded a DipRAM for outstanding performance.
Carolyn made her debut with Irish National Opera in 2018 singing The Voice (Tales of Hoffmann). She was a semi-finalist and winner of the Dermot Troy Prize for the best Irish singer in the 2019 Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition, and in 2017 she was awarded the Audience Prize at Northern Ireland Opera’s Festival of Voice.
Opera and concert highlights include Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle, Mozart’s Requiem and C minor Mass, Elijah, Messiah, Bach’s Easter and Ascension Oratorios, Elgar’s Sea Pictures, Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Prince Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus), Mrs Jones (Street Scene), Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), Jocasta (Oedipus Rex), Sesto (Giulio Cesare), Minskwoman (Flight) and La Zia Principessa (Suor Angelica).
Carolyn has been generously supported by the Irish Arts Council, the Mario Lanza Trust and the Sybil Tutton Award.×
Kelli-Ann Masterson is a soprano from County Wexford. She holds a BMusEd degree from Trinity College Dublin and MMus from DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama.
Kelli-Ann is a member of the NI Opera Studio for 2018/2019. She has been selected as one of the 2019 ‘Rising Stars’ by University Concert Hall Limerick and is a company artist with Cork Opera House. A multi-prize winner at Feis Ceoil, this year Kelli-Ann won the Dramatic Cup and Tony Quigley Award.
Her operatic roles include Despina (Così fan tutte), Adele (Die Fledermaus), Amour (Pygmalion), Papagena (Die Zauberflöte), Amour (Orphée et Eurydice) and The Sandman/Dew Fairy (Hansel and Gretel).
Engagements in 2019 include the role of Vespetta (Pimpinone) with Opera Collective Ireland at the Killaloe Chamber Music Festival, Chloé (Offenbach’s Daphnis et Chloé) with NI Opera Studio as well as oratorio and concert performances with Our Lady’s Choral Society.×
Bray soprano Sarah Power studied at the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama in Dublin and the National Opera Studio in London before moving to Glasgow to work for Scottish Opera as an emerging artist. She has received many prizes including the RDS €10,000 Bursary and second prize at the Kathleen Ferrier Awards at Wigmore Hall in London.
Sarah has appeared in productions for Welsh National Opera, Wexford Festival Opera and Scottish Opera,and recently made her debut with Irish National Opera performing the role of Euridice in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice in a national tour of Ireland.
Other recent performances include the Irish premiere of Howard Goodall’s Invictus with the Bray Choral Society, ‘La Donna Barocca’ with the Irish Baroque Orchestra, Haydn’s Creation in Athens and the title role in a newly-devised work entitled Hazel: Made in Belfast at Carnegie Hall, New York.
Future performances include Jenkins’ The Armed Man with Enchiriadis Treis, Mozart’s Requiem with the Bray Choral Society, a Bach and Handel recital with the Dunedin Consort in Edinburgh and song recitals in Austria.×
Rory Musgrave is a baritone from Connemara. He recently made his international operatic debut in Tokyo, Japan, singing Solaris by Dai Fujikura and has just returned from Weimar, Germany where he sang Dr Falke (Die Fledermaus).
Other opera engagements include Schaunard (La bohème) and Il Barone (La traviata) for Lyric Opera, Schaunard (La bohème), Count Gil (Susanna’s Secret) and chorus (Rigoletto, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and L’elisir d’amore) with Opera Theatre Company, Smirnov (The Bear), Magnus (Herculanum), Bell (Guglielmo Ratcliff) and chorus (Silent Night) at Wexford Festival Opera, Second Soldier and Naaman (Salome) and chorus (Macbeth and L’elisir d’amore) for Northern Ireland Opera, Junius (The Rape of Lucretia) and Eumete (The Return of Ulysses) with Opera Collective Ireland, Richard Nixon (cover) and chorus (Nixon in China) for (Wide Open Opera), and a national tour of Andrew Synott’s The Dead singing Gabriel Conroy for The Performance Corporation/Breda Cashe Productions.
Rory was named Opera Theatre Company: Opera Hub Emerging Artist, and received the PWC Bursary and the Arnholm Bursary at Wexford Festival Opera.×
Tenor Ross Scanlon trained at the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama where he was awarded the Michael McNamara Gold Medal of excellence,and at the Royal Academy of Music, London. At the Royal Academy of Music Opera School he performed roles such as Lurcanio (Ariodante), Masino (La vera costanza), Monostatos (Die Zauberflöte) and Scaramuccio (Ariadne auf Naxos).
Elsewhere, his roles include Le Thérière (L’Enfant et les sortilèges) with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican, London, Male Chorus (The Rape of Lucretia) and Iro (The Return of Ulysses) for Opera Collective Ireland, Ed (A Belfast Opera) for Northern Ireland Opera, Hot Biscuit (Paul Bunyan) for Welsh National Youth Opera, The Bookkeeper (The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny) for Opera Theatre Company, Dublin, Remendado (Carmen) for Lyric Opera, Dublin and,Tamino (The Magic Flute) for Glasthule Opera.
Concert engagements include 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.
Ross was recently invited to perform for HRH Prince Charles with the Ulster Orchestra.×
Fionn Ó hAlmhain
Fionn Ó hAlmhain is a young German-born bass who grew up in Co. Wicklow and is now
based in Dublin. He has recently completed a degree in Irish Traditional Music at the TU Dublin
Conservatoire of Music and Drama, where he met his singing teacher Dr. Robert Alderson and
took up operatic singing.
Since then he has performed widely, both in Ireland and the UK, including work with Irish
National Opera, where he joined the chorus and performed in a young artist showcase with the
RTÉ Symphony Orchestra last November, Lyric Opera, the Salford Choral Society, Opera
Britain, Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra, North Wales Opera Studio and the Yorke Trust Opera.
Fionn was lucky to be accepted onto the Glyndebourne Academy for talented young singers in
2017 where he was nominated for the Gus Christie Award.
Fionn is also a founding member of the TU Dublin Operatic Society and starts a term as
Secretary with them in the coming academic season.
As an actor Fionn has benefited from many opportunities during his development as a singer,
not least working with a high standard opera directors during the above engagements. His
experiences as an actor also include some amateur performances of plays at the Mater Hospital
and the most recent opera at the Yorke Trust which included scenes and dialogues from
Shakespeare “The Tempest”.