Opera Prize 2021
Elsewhere © Shawn Fitzgerald Ahern i
Elsewhere is a new opera by Irish composer Michael Gallen, bringing together an international team of celebrated and emerging artists, which tells the story of the 1919 Monaghan Asylum Soviet - when the striking staff of a rural Irish Asylum barricaded the gates and declared their independence.
Elsewhere is a new opera by Irish composer Michael Gallen, based on a radical 1919 event, when the striking staff of Monaghan Asylum, near the soon to be redrawn Irish North-South border, barricaded themselves in and declared a Soviet, integrating the patients into its function. The moment of the Soviet is in constellation with our own, occurring during the 1918 flu pandemic, at a time when the Irish border was in international focus. Marked by death and hardship, the strikers overcame sectarian divides to demand humane conditions and equal pay for men and women. Dealing with themes of freedom, care and mental illness, Elsewhere explores the imagined future of a forgotten past.The events in Elsewhere unfold through the visions of Celine, a patient who decades later remains ‘locked in’ to the moment of the Soviet, believing herself to be its leader. Through her interactions with the charismatic 'Inspector of Lunatics', we tread the borders between fantasy and incarceration. Singers and instrumentalists play a range of characters from patients and strikers to Marx and Jehovah, shape-shifting between work routines, football games, negotiations, dances… in a dynamic both playful and uncanny. The onstage musicians are integral to Celine’s fantasy, agitating on either side of the dispute and playing important character roles. Over time we uncover how Celine’s fate and that of the Soviet are entwined.
Elsewhere was developed in 2019 through workshops in France and Ireland, culminating in a sold-out concert performance near the actual site of the Soviet.
The libretto is co-written by Gallen with poet Annemarie Ní Churreain and playwright Dylan Coburn Gray. It will be produced by Irish opera company Straymaker in co-production with French ensemble Miroirs Étendus and the Abbey Theatre, directed by Tom Creed and conducted by Fiona Monbet with design by Katie Davenport, Sinead McKenna and Luca Truffarelli, produced by Maura O’Keeffe with Anne Delmotte and Sofia Surgutschowa.
The opera will premiere at the Abbey Theatre in November ’21, with planned performances also at the Opéra de Rouen Normandie, Íontas Casteblayney and Operadagen Rotterdam during the 2021/22 Season.
Funded by the Arts Council of Ireland.
Michael Gallen - Composer/Librettist (IRL)
Lead artist, Artistic Director of Straymaker
A bilingual (English/Gaelic) poet with a strong record of making work related to state institutions, collective memory and the experience of those at the margins of society Dylan Coburn Gray - Librettist (IRL)
Award-winning playwright with a flourish for formal and linguistic innovation Tom Creed - Director (IRL)
One of Ireland’s most innovative opera directors, working in both experimental and traditional forms. Tom has been developing Elsewhere with Michael Gallen since the early conceptual stages. Fiona Monbet - Musical Director (FR)
Conductor and violinist with expertise in improvised and traditional music. Fiona has an intimate understanding of Michael Gallen’s musical language, which merges elements of Irish music with contemporary composition. Romain Louveau - Vocal Director (FR)
A much in-demand young French repetiteur, experienced in working with singers of both contemporary and classical repertoire. Katie Davenport - Set/Costume Designer (IRL)
An emerging set/costume designer with a particular skill in creating modular/porous sets that allow for subtle and rapid shifts of environment Luca Truffarelli - Video Designer (ITA)
Video-artist with experience in the integration of digital and cinematic material into the medium of live performance. Sinead McKenna - Lighting Designer (IRL)
One of Ireland’s most experienced lighting designers, regularly working in major venues across Europe. A frequent collaborator of Tom Creed’s, often on projects where lighting and music are entwined. Miroirs Étendus - Instrumental Ensemble Our singers have been chosen for their vocal dexterity, dramatic versatility and skill in contemporary vocal performance. They include:
Daire Halpin (IRL)
Amy Ní Fhearraigh (IRL/NL)
Adrian Dwyer (AUS/UK)
Emma Morwood (NI)
Aaron O’Hare (NI)
Fearghal Curtis (IRL) Maura O'Keeffe is one of Ireland's most regarded international producers.
Composer & Librettist
Annemarie Ní Churreain
Dylan Coburn Gray
Set & Costume Designer
Vocal Director & Pianist