From names of random musicians scribbled out on filing paper, Spark Opera developed into a company with bigger ambitions. New work still featured heavily, but we wanted to do it professionally with more of a connection to its audience – hence Spark Opera Bites with NI Opera’s Young Artists, for the Belfast Children’s Festival, and Requiem for the Disappeared, informed by the families of the Disappeared through the WAVE trauma centre.
Along the way, we performed arias in the street (Keynote), extracts at festivals (Outburst, Fifteen Minutes), fundraisers (A Medieval Christmas, Ecco la Primavera, 999 Opera Gala) and full-scale operas (La Traviata), which helped us get to know local performers, local places and most importantly, local audiences.
Now, we’re expanding – to make new opera, youth opera and community opera a reality in Northern Ireland. We’d like to put living composers, artists-in-training and volunteers at the centre of opera through work that’s fresh, high quality and connected to its audience. And we’d like to do it at least once a year where we live.
For 2016/2017, we’ve commissioned Conor Mitchell’s Hapsburg Tragedies in association with the Belfast Ensemble, previewing “The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon” at the Sherman Theatre Cardiff before premiering parts 1 & 2 the Lyric Theatre Belfast. You can catch “The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon” at this year’s Tête à Tête Opera Festival. After that? Well let’s just say it’s a bit of secret.

Although a few organisations are doing this kind of work in Northern Ireland, we’re proud to say that we’re unique for making this work – new work, youth work and community work – the absolute core of what we do. And what we do is very, very exciting.