Stirring rendition of Enescu’s ‘Octet’
The RTÉ Vanbrugh and Jupiter String Quartets produced a blitz of energy
It’s not been an upswing for everyone. Plans by Eugene Downes, former chief executive of Culture Ireland, to reignite the idea of a national opera company and to engineer a takeover of Opera Theatre Company came to naught. And OTC has now announced the names of its new chief executive and artistic director, succeeding Kirsty Harris and Annelies Miskimmo.
The new chief executive is Rosemary Collier, and the new artistic director Fergus Sheil. Collier is chief executive of Kilkenny Arts Festival, and Sheil is artistic director of Wide Open Opera and Wide Open Music. Strange as it may seem, Collier and Sheil’s key background may not be the jobs they are doing at the moment. Both have also worked for the Arts Council, Collier as head of music and opera and Sheil as music specialist. The opera sector has never shown the kind of savvy in its dealings with the Arts Council that, say, the theatre sector has shown, and that includes the Wexford festival, which found itself for years on a standstill grant, as it struggled with its orchestra issues – Wexford’s access to state funding for its new opera house was negotiated directly with powers higher than the council.
Given their insider backgrounds, it will be interesting to see what effect Collier and Sheil will have on the profile of OTC (which, embarrassingly, returned €360,000 for an abortive Irish première of Berg’s Wozzeck earlier this year) and of opera in general. Wide Open Opera’s chairman, Michael Wall, has welcomed Sheil’s appointment, describing the two companies’ work as “complementary”. OTC resumes its tour of Bizet’s Carmen in Ennis on Tuesday, October 15th. Wide Open Opera’s next venture is a concert performance of Raymond Deane’s The Alma Fetish at the NCH on Tuesday, September 17th.
Change at the top
Opera is not the only area experiencing change at the top. At the beginning of the year the vacancy created by Christine Lee’s resignation as general manager of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra was filled by Declan McGovern. Rosa Solinas, formerly head of music at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, then took over McGovern’s previous position, as chief executive of the Ulster Orchestra.
The Irish Chamber Orchestra has now appointed a chief executive to replace John Kelly, who resigned last year. The post has gone to Gerry Keenan, a man well placed to understand the challenges the orchestra faces. Keenan was the orchestra’s manager from 1987 to 1993, before it relocated from Dublin to Limerick, when its players were mostly members of the two RTÉ orchestras. He’s been acting chief executive since Kelly left, elevated from the post of orchestra manager, which he held from 2006 to 2012.
His history with the ICO is longer than that of anyone else who’s involved with the orchestra, apart from board member and former chairman Frank Casey.