Limerick is once again coming up with some innovative new artistic ventures

Following the burst of activity around the city of culture, Limerick is once again coming up with some innovative new artistic ventures.

A new company, Opera Workshop is establishing itself as a focal point for local singers and musicians interested in experimenting with the genre. Now the company has announced plans for its most ambitious project to date. The Opera Workshop ensemble will perform three original works by Limerick composer Fiona Linnane and an Irish premier by Canadian composer Sophie Dupuis, in addition to arias and songs by Purcell and Haydn.

The hour-long programme featuring seven singers and three musicians takes the seas and sailors as a central theme and will be staged in the port side 19th century Sailors’ Home in Limerick.

The programme will include the world premiere of Linnane’s new work, Off Tuskar, especially composed for Opera Workshop, and devised by the composer and singers during workshops in 2018.

This tragic opera is based on the loss of the Loop Head ship, bound for Limerick from Wales before it disappeared off Tuskar in the great storm of 1927. Linnane expands:

They never found the ship. Debris was found washed up in Dungarvan and it was presumed lost at sea. The crew were all young men from Limerick and Clare. Off Tuskar is a Limerick story, but it is timeless. The opera is about the experiences of the women waiting on the shore — the awful sense of agony of waiting for news of a loved one

Off Tuskar is one of four short operas that will be staged in different rooms of one of Limerick’s historic houses. Over the century and a half of its existence, The Sailors’ Home has been a militia headquarters, a barracks, and a garda station but never, it seems, a refuge for sailors. For this performance, the building owned by the local port company, Shannon Foynes, will have the audience promenading through the rooms and hallway.

Another of Linnane’s pieces, ‘The Bay of Funday’ will feature a Limerick soprano.

“I’m very excited that Sarah Dolan is returning from Seattle to play Katy. Sarah is the third soprano to perform the role since the work premiered in Nova Scotia in 2014. As a contemporary composer, you don’t often see your work performed once not to mention repeat performances by different performers.”

Linnane has been a mover and shaker on the new music scene in Limerick for the last decade. Growing up in Cratloe, Linnane says was a relatively late starter in composition but there was an inkling of her future pathway in her childhood jottings. “My mother presented me with an old school copybook recently. I would have been about ten and we were writing about three things you could be when your grow. I put writer, lifeguard and the third thing was I could be a composer. I did specialise in electro acoustic composition for my Master’s thesis in UL but my real start in instrumental and vocal composition came from attending CoMA UK summer schools.”

In 2008 she was one of the founders of CoMA, Limerick a collective of musicians interested in performing new music. Linnane, who combines writing with a career as piano teacher and choral director, is warm in her praise of director Shirley Keane .

“It is just super writing with an opera production company locally who wants to work with me. That has kick-started everything again.”

Cathy Desmond Performances at Sailors Home, 3rd May 3–5; and The Hunt Museum on May 6. operaworkshop.ie

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