Proposed National Opera Comany

To ask the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the details of the proposed establishment of the National Opera Company; when it will be fully operational; and if she will make a statement on the matter. – Dan Neville.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 31st March, 2010.

R E P L Y

Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport. Ms Mary Hanafin. T.D.

I propose taking questions no. 73 and no. 77 together.

The foundation of Irish National Opera was announced recently and an Interim Board, chaired by Mr Ray Bates, former Director of the National Lottery was appointed. Irish National Opera will be based in Dublin. It will stage opera on all scales in the capital and throughout the country. The company will also encourage the development of opera in Ireland through the provision of opportunities for emerging Irish talent and with education and outreach programmes which will encourage more people to engage with and attend opera performances.

The new Irish company will replace the two State-funded companies, Opera Ireland and Opera Theatre Company – which between them cover much of the range of artistic work that would be expected from a national opera company. At present, Opera Ireland produces main-scale opera in Dublin, while Opera Theatre Company produces smaller-scale opera, both in Dublin and throughout the State, as well as operating outreach and education programmes. The Chairs of both companies, Mr. Thomas Lynch and Ms Virginia Kerr have been appointed to the Interim Board also.

The process of working towards the formation of a new Irish national opera company has been a collaborative one involving the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the Arts Council, Opera Ireland and Opera Theatre Company. My officials, together with the Arts Council, have met with the new chairman already. The high level goals of the new company have been agreed.

It is envisaged that the Irish National Opera will officially commence operation in coming weeks. In the meantime, Opera Ireland and Opera Theatre Company will continue their work throughout 2010, as agreed with the Arts Council as both companies have been funded by the Arts Council to continue with their agreed respective artistic outputs for all of 2010.

I propose taking questions no. 73 and no. 77 together.

The foundation of Irish National Opera was announced recently and an Interim Board, chaired by Mr Ray Bates, former Director of the National Lottery was appointed. Irish National Opera will be based in Dublin. It will stage opera on all scales in the capital and throughout the country. The company will also encourage the development of opera in Ireland through the provision of opportunities for emerging Irish talent and with education and outreach programmes which will encourage more people to engage with and attend opera performances.

The new Irish company will replace the two State-funded companies, Opera Ireland and Opera Theatre Company – which between them cover much of the range of artistic work that would be expected from a national opera company. At present, Opera Ireland produces main-scale opera in Dublin, while Opera Theatre Company produces smaller-scale opera, both in Dublin and throughout the State, as well as operating outreach and education programmes. The Chairs of both companies, Mr. Thomas Lynch and Ms Virginia Kerr have been appointed to the Interim Board also.

The process of working towards the formation of a new Irish national opera company has been a collaborative one involving the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the Arts Council, Opera Ireland and Opera Theatre Company. My officials, together with the Arts Council, have met with the new chairman already. The high level goals of the new company have been agreed.

It is envisaged that the Irish National Opera will officially commence operation in coming weeks. In the meantime, Opera Ireland and Opera Theatre Company will continue their work throughout 2010, as agreed with the Arts Council as both companies have been funded by the Arts Council to continue with their agreed respective artistic outputs for all of 2010.

In addition to the Chairman Mr Ray Bates, Ms Virginia Kerr and Mr Thomas Lynch, the Interim Board of Irish National Opera includes Sir Brian McMaster, Chairman of the National Opera Studio in the UK and former Managing Director at the Welsh National Opera. To assist in transitional arrangements, the Chief Executives of Opera Ireland and Opera Theatre Company, Mr Niall Doyle and Ms Kirsty Harris, respectively, have been appointed to the Interim Board for a period of three months.

At present, there are three Opera Companies in the State which receive annual funding from the Arts Council. Opera Ireland and Opera Theatre Company which I have dealt with above. Wexford Festival Opera is the third company.

Wexford Festival Opera has a distinct niche and a highly successful brand both nationally and internationally and is a very successful tourism generator for Wexford. It is important that this brand should be maintained in its present form and consequently there are no plans to change its funding or institutional arrangements. That too has been agreed with the Arts Council.