Despite—and, at times, partly because of—the pandemic, the past year has seen many exciting experiments in new opera. Joining this now is a production many years in the planning. ‘Elsewhere’, by composer Michael Gallen, with writers Annemarie Ní Churreáin and Dylan Coburn Gray, explores a forgotten moment in Irish history: the Monaghan Asylum Soviet of 1919.
The action occurs during the Flu pandemic, at a time when social and political borders were being redrawn. Staff of the Monaghan Asylum barricade the hospital gates and declare themselves an independent Soviet commune. Bringing asylum workers and patients together in collective action, this moment offered a revolutionary vision of what a care-centred society could look like.
Despite death and hardship, the strikers overcame sectarian divides to demand humane conditions and equal pay for women and men. Drawing on the hum of murmured rosaries, the lilt of the border dialect and the glitched ornamentation of Oriel sean nós song, the score melds delicate introspection with the wild energy of revolt.
‘Elsewhere’ will be staged at the Abbey Theatre on 15-20 November, directed by Tom Creed. Fiona Monbet conducts Ensemble Miroirs Étendus, with singers Aaron O’Hare, Amy Ní Fhearraigh, Adrian Dwyer, Aoife Miskelly, Daire Halpin, Fearghal Curtis, and Sinéad O’Kelly.
For further details and booking information, see: abbeytheatre.ie
Images by Shawn Fitzgerald