Cork soprano Emma Nash returns to her hometown with opera dance fusion production

Cork soprano Emma Nash returns to her hometown with a production of Orfeo ed Euridice featuring a new dance element, writes Cathy Desmond.

It is barely a year since Irish National Opera launched its inaugural season and as the company begins a second year, it can look back on what has been a very successful start to life, with healthy box office returns and excellent reviews.

Emma Nash (centre with white shirt) and some of the other cast members of Orfeo ed Euridice, currently on tour.

The company, which effectively consolidates the touring remit of Opera Theatre Company and the big house productions of Wide Open Opera, has succeeded in bringing opera within general reach with performances of eight productions in cities and towns all over the country at relatively modest ticket prices.

Moreover, INO under artistic director Fergus Sheil has managed the balancing trick of mounting the big popular works in crowd-pleasing stylish productions with smaller productions of less often heard works presenting a more adventurous face of the fledgling company.

INO begins 2019 with its most extensive tour yet, a production of Gluck’s 18th century Orfeo ed Euridice which had a sold out run at its premiere at Galway International Arts Festival last July.

In an unusual move, INO invited Carlow based choreographer Emma Martin to direct her first opera. With movement as a starting element, it presents a new challenge for singers.

The quartet of dancers from Martins’ United Fall company is matched by a chorus of the same proportions. In keeping with the policy of casting Irish talent, the productions have provided welcome opportunities for Irish singers to work at home.

MIXED ROLE

Playing the role of Amore is Cork soprano Emma Nash who reveals something of the rehearsal process.

“Yes, it is true, I’m a dancer now,” she chuckles.

We begin every session with an intense hour of yoga. The aim is for singers and dancers to work as one seamless unit. The hope is that you won’t know which is which

No park and bark performances here then. This is a show that calls for light and nimble performers as Nash reveals that she stands on the back of a dancer to deliver an aria.

Preparation for the physical nature of the role has added new routines to the soprano’s vocal regime.

“Since Christmas, I am back in the gym in a big way. For singers, your body is your instrument. You have to be fit for an opera career and especially for this show. I have really noticed the difference that improved fitness has made to my performance overall.”

Natives of Douglas in Cork, the Nash siblings have all shown an artistic streak. Nash has been singing and dancing since she was a stage school kid. A sister is a graphic designer based in New York and her brother has taken six months off his job as an architect in London to cycle to Australia.

Nash has been busy combining performing and teaching in Cork since graduating four years ago from an opera course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. “It feels like yesterday since I graduated and have been out in the real world. I feel very lucky to have sustained a performing career so far. Not everybody in my year is still singing.”

Nash’s first big break came in 2015 she landed the role of Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto for Opera Theatre Company.

“It was a huge moment in my career to get such an amazing role after just a year out of college.”

Since then she has been a familiar face at Wexford Festival productions and in 2017 she was a winner of the Wexford Festival Emerging Young Artist bursary. “I was thrilled get such recognition from Wexford . I’ve been involved there for three seasons now. It is great exposure and has also led to some lovely concert opportunities.”

In May, Nash will join baritone Gavan Ring for a concert to mark 20 years of the classical music station RTÉ Lyric FM at the NCH.

BOARDING HOUSE

Pressed for a favourite memory, she recalls her role of Polly in The Boarding House by Andrew Synnott. Based on James Joyce’s stories, Dubliners premiered at Wexford Festival in 2017. “I love Andrew’s music and I hope Dubliners will get a tour.”

Nash is familiar to audiences closer to home from her many performances on Cork stages. She recently sang a lead role in Cork Opera House’s production of The Mikado. “I think the Opera Concert Series with John O’Brien is a fantastic initiative. I loved playing Yum Yum. There was such nostalgia for G&S and The Mikado in that audience — it was very special to be part of it.”

Nash will be back in Cork Opera house for the third instalment of Tom Lane’s mini opera series. Following Front of House and Backstage, new production The Stalls will premiere at the Cork Midsummer Festival.

But for now, Nash is fighting fit for the road. “I’m looking forward to visiting different venues around the country. It will be my first time to perform at the Theatre Royal in Waterford and Glór in Ennis. I’m especially looking forward to coming home to the Everyman in Cork. It is a wonderful fusion of elements and there something for everyone in this production.”

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