Wayne’s world of theatre looking forward to first opera

Cathy Desmond talks to theatre director Wayne Jordan, ahead of his debut opera, Handel’s ‘Radamisto’, staged by Northern Ireland Opera

Wayne’s world of theatre looking forward to first opera

The form of the opera has been the biggest shock to the system. Energising a staging of a work full of repetition and da capo arias has been a technical challenge”

YOU wait ages for a Baroque opera and then three come along, all by Handel. Opera Theatre Company’s country and western production of ‘Acis and Galatea’ has just finished touring, and Northern Ireland Opera follow up their 2015 production of ‘Agrippina’ with an Irish premiere of ‘Radamisto’. It is director Wayne Jordan’s opera debut.

Jordan is a darling of the Dublin theatre, lauded for his fresh approach to classics and his innovative work in musical theatre. If you have been to the Gate or Abbey theatres in recent years, chances are you have seen one of his productions.

For a director still in his mid-thirties, the diversity and volume of his output are remarkable. Shakespeare, Euripides, Tolstoy, and Ibsen form part of his back catalogue, as well as the ground breaking musical, ‘Alice in Funderland’. He co-directed the smash hit dance show, ‘Prodijig’, which returns to the Cork Opera House in June.

Music has been a strong influence in his own journey. “I was always interested in the arts. I had a brilliant teacher at school, Sandra McTurk, who supported me to explore my own interests. I played clarinet in a marching band and, at secondary school, a Miss Melody, from Cork, coached us for state music exams outside school hours”.

As a schoolboy, Jordan was impressed by a production of Puccini’s ‘La Boheme’. But what set him on the path to working in the theatre was performing in school productions of musicals.

Although musical theatre formed part of his prodigious output, including a production of Weill’s ‘Threepenny Opera’ for the Gate, opera wasn’t in his sights until Oliver Mears, then director at NI Opera, came to see his production of Shadow of a Gunman at the Abbey and invited him to Belfast.

“It has been very liberating to be outside my own milieu. So far, I’ve worked mainly in Dublin. This is the first time the show has been cast for me and I’ve been excited to discover the talents of the singers I’m working with. It was a big draw for me to work with designer, Annemarie Woods, who has produced some dazzling designs for the opera. The form of the opera has been the biggest shock to the system. Energising a staging of a work that is full of repetition and da capo arias has been a technical challenge”.

So what can we expect from his staging of a plot based on sex, power, and corruption? Jordan describes it as being a ‘lofty clown show’. “The project it is most closely related to is a production I did of Twelfth Night, in that I use similar technique. It looks like a perfect Romantic pastiche, with big costumes that are an amalgamation of Classical and Elizabethan periods. There is an actor who treats the singers like puppets, undercutting an idea about power all the way”.

Jordan is particularly looking forward to bringing the production to Cork. “I fell madly in love with Cork, when I spent time here directing ‘Prodijig’. The Everyman Theatre is such a gorgeous theatre and has a personality that I think will hold the show well.” Jordan is having fun with his new venture.

“I am thrilled by the sheer size and emotional scale, how shamelessly ‘showman’ the opera form is. It has the power to shake people in a visceral and experiential way. I like to think that, when I am working at my best, I’m very playful and this has certainly given me that opportunity”.

Northern Ireland Opera, in association with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, presents the Irish première and all-Ireland tour of Handel’s ‘Radamisto’. Limerick, Cork, Dublin, Belfast.

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