Live entertainment from your couch: What’s on this week
Lockdown sees Carlow Arts Festival move online while INO’s Friday Opera Session streams on YouTube
Ciara Higgins, Director of Great Music in Irish Houses. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.
It’s far from what we want, but the virtual experience of what was previously live entertainment has some advantages in the interim. Not least of these is accessibility - you can enjoy live music or theatre from your sofa miles away, in your PJs if you want.
Here are some of the pleasures coming up over the next week, in an effort to make up for some of the live entertainment that has been temporarily scuppered by Covid-19.
Great Music in Irish Houses
It’ll be a party without corporeal guests on Sunday June 7th, but larger numbers of them can celebrate from a distance to mark the 50th birthday of Great Music in Irish Houses, Ireland’s longest-running chamber music festival. Artistic director Ciara Higgins and executive director Laurie Cearr had to abandon their celebratory line-up for this year - but hope to recreate it later when it’s safe.
In the meantime, this weekend they’re marking a half-century of chamber music in gorgeous spaces - past festival venues ranged from Carton, Castletown, Killruddery and Fota houses to Dublin or Slane castles and Stormont - by “celebrating the musical artists, host venues and patrons who continue to make it the music of friends”, says Higgins.
On RTÉ lyric fm’s The Full Score (Friday, June 5th, 1-4pm) Liz Nolan hosts GMIIH music and musicians. And on Sunday’s actual birthday the festival celebrates all day via its Facebook page, with interviews, discussions, performances and messages from artists and regular audience members.
At noon artistic directors past and present (founder David Laing, Judith Woodworth, Hugh Tinney and Ciara Higgins) look back with host Aedin Gormley. At 5pm Higgins chats with musicians due to perform this year, including clarinettist Carol McGonnell and pianist Finghin Collins; and it wraps up at 7.30pm with a “close-to-live” online birthday concert with musicians including soprano Ailish Tynan, tenor Robin Tritschler, violist Rosalind Ventris, guitarist Sean Shibe and pianists Philippe Cassard and Finghin Collins - from homes in Ireland and abroad.
Higgins is looking forward to highlighting “some of the magical moments Greath Music in Irish Houses has created for Irish audiences over half a century”.
Carlow Arts Festival
In an alternative reality the first cultural event of the summer, Carlow Arts Festival, would have been enlivening the town next weekend. In its absence, the festival team has reimagined it using digital tools to put together a virtual edition, livestreaming #SLICE2 of the festival to an online audience.
Louis Lovett of Theatre Lovett hosts the hour-long broadcast (Saturday June 6th, 8pm), with international arts critic Villum Harsch and live and prerecorded work by national, international and Carlow artists, streamed as a live broadcast on Carlow Arts Festival’s youtube channel and facebook page.
Exotic v Baskin: The Micro-Opera sounds a hoot - a Tiger King-inspired micro-opera, a darkly funny musical duel riffing on the true story behind the Tiger King phenomenon that diverted many of us in early lockdown. By acclaimed US composer Dana Kaufman, with a libretto by award-winning playwright Tom Swift (the team behind the reality TV-inspired Opera Kardashian), it is performed and directed by Lucia Lucas and Ariana Lucas.
Also in the line-up: Cian Kinsella’s (Lords of Strut) Grow Your Own Way, described as a journey into farming and partial insanity during lockdown. Crash Ensemble premieres Vultures by Amanda Feery at Carlow’s Ducketts Grove. Emma Martin’ s Oh Sweet Future Dream, a visual essay/mixtape/collage between reality and imagination.
Two Christina Zauner Circus performers explore spontaneous movement, physical trust and creative cinematography; Argentinian Josefina Gorostiza’s explosive dance/music/spoken word. Horsebox Theatre’s Bryan Quinn and Weekend of Bernie; young Carlovian Ella Lily Hyland on sex, drink and comfort food; and Felispeaks’ new work.
While they would have expected over 55,000 real-life people at the festival - with employment for hundreds of artists and crew and significant impact on the local economy - festival chief executive and artistic director Jo Mangan says they’ve embraced new ways of working and are “determined to take this as an opportunity”.
“Thanks to digital technology, we’ve been able to rethink, reset and reinvent what we do in 2020. This is the festival even we didn’t know could happen.”
Other elements from the 2020 programme will pop up in further #SLICES over the coming months.
Friday Opera Session
The choices of aria in INO’s Friday Opera Session on Friday amusingly echo our lives’ themes, with soprano Anna Devin locked down (Lascia ch’io pianga from Handel’s Rinaldo), and baritone Seán Boylan social distancing (Deh, vieni alla finestra in Mozart’s Don Giovanni). The front-line features for soprano Kelli-Ann Masterson (Chacun le sait from Donizetti’s La fille du regiment) while soprano Amy Ní Fhearraigh does a spot of gardening (Deh vieni, non tardar from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro).
Irish National Opera’s series of five bite-sized sessions (partnered with the Istituto Italiano di Cultura) started last weekend, and continue on Fridays (streaming on YouTube and INO Facebook at 5pm), with the singers performing arias in their homes instead of opera houses or concert halls, accompanied by pianist Aoife O’Sullivan and introduced by INO artistic director Fergus Sheil, who chats with performers and fields live questions.
After INO had to cancel its season’s final two productions, and missing live performances for large audiences, it made its back catalogue available at irishnationalopera.ie. It’s now “embraced the challenge of linking musicians across borders” for performances by “singers from our operatic family who share our determination to overcome the peculiar difficulties of performing together over the internet,” says Sheil.
He reckons the results will have “something of the freshness and edge of an operatic jam session” - great operatic repertoire in a playful and relaxed context.
Friday is gearing up to be live music streaming night, from INO to Maria Doyle Kennedy’s ongoing weekly #SongsFromTheKitchen to the National Concert Hall’s series of concerts streamed live from its Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2 stage, with an audience at home replacing the empty seats.
Following last week’s first concert (mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught and pianist Dearbhla Collins) this week it’s Bell X1’s front man Paul Noonan (June 5th, 8pm), who says “Living as we are without most of the ways of being in each others’ orbits, it feels like these kinds of concerts can help still our racing minds, and bring us a little closer”. He promises Bell X1 songs, other projects and “I’ll try to react to hollers as they come in on the ticker-tape”.