What is your current role and how long have you been working in it?
I am the Executive Director of Irish National Opera. The company was launched last January with an inaugural concert that featured some of Ireland’s best opera singers. INO is the first truly national company that will present opera in larger theatres in Dublin and elsewhere, and also maintain and develop touring throughout Ireland. I have held this position since the inception of the company – which means, just four months.
How did you get to where you are today and what influenced your decision to work in your chosen field?
I’ve always worked in the arts & culture sector and cannot imagine, for the moment anyway, of working in any other sphere. My academic background is literature and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study in Boston, Zurich and Dublin. I am from Italian-speaking Switzerland and discovered opera at an early age, though I did not fully appreciate it until I was in my 20s. I landed my first proper job after university with Boston Lyric Opera. There I worked in various capacities with some extraordinary individuals. I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was really a training ground for and an apprenticeship in arts administration.
After a short stint with Opera Theatre Company in Dublin, I joined the executive of the Arts Council (of Ireland). This experience gave me an insight into arts and public funding policy. I was Executive Producer with Rough Magic Theatre Company for a number of happy and thrilling years. That experience gave me a firm grasp of the performing arts sector in Ireland. I am excited to be back in the opera business now, as opera is my first love.
What do you love/enjoy most about your job?
I get to meet and work with some remarkable people – colleagues at the office, singers, musicians, creative and technical teams and opera supporters and fans. It really is a privilege. Also, we are a brand-new company, a start-up, so we are building everything from scratch, which is exciting.
And what are the most challenging parts of your job?
At the moment we are working on establishing the company and the brand. This is a challenge as everything is happening at the same time (productions, the need to set up systems and procedures, devising and implementing policies and planning for 2019 and beyond). Once the company is fully staffed and established, the challenge will be to ensure its financial viability.
How do you relax?
I enjoy vigorous hiking. I find Howth Head particularly beautiful – if you do the entire loop, you experience several different landscapes all in the one walk. In the right weather, the view over the sea and across harbours is stunning.
What skills and personality traits do you think are essential for a job like yours?
The most important personality traits are a positive attitude, a willingness to learn and the ability to rely on the expertise of others. Opera management and production can only come to successful fruition through genuine team work, usually a very large team. There are many necessary skills, but the key ones are financial management and fundraising.
As many of my colleagues working in arts organisations can attest, working in this field can lead to difficult and stressful situations. The best antidote is a healthy sense of humour.
What’s your advice to anyone who wants to pursue a career in the same field?
University will not prepare you for a job – so study a subject you really enjoy. You will learn how to do the job later. Try to gain experience in a variety of fields – finance, marketing, fundraising, contracting, tour management and so on. Learn how to write – effective communication is a powerful tool.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Believe in yourself and in your work.
What has been the best moment of your career so far?
Watching the reaction of an enraptured audience at our recent production of “The Marriage of Figaro” in the Gaiety Theatre.
What are your career aspirations?
To continue to work in a stimulating environment and to make a meaningful contribution to cultural life.