Emma O’Halloran

Athlone composer's opera debuts in New York

A new opera by acclaimed Athlone-born composer, musician and vocalist, Emma O’Halloran received high praise in the New York Times over the weekend.

The reviewer of the two-hour double bill which finally opened in the Abrons Arts Center on the Lower East Side after a Covid-induced cancellation last year stated that the “intensity rarely flags” in the work and that it shapes “lucid, communicative vocal lines” and has a text that “always sings out.”

The two-hour work featuring operatic pieces from the pen of the supremely talented Athlone woman called “Trade/Mary Motorhead” also features librettos by her uncle, actor and writer, Mark O’Halloran, and opened in the Abrons Arts Centre for a five night run on January 8 last.

Emma, who is the daughter of retired Brigadier General Peter O’Halloran and his wife, Linda from Clonbrock Court in Retreat Park, is one of the most sought-after new generation of composers, and was tipped by the Washington Post last year as one of 22 talented composers and performers to watch out for in 2022 as part of their “22 for 2022.” series. The paper described the gifted Athlone-born musician, vocalist and composer as being an artist who makes “intensely beautiful (or beautifully intense?) works that scatter the boundary between acoustic and electronic music.”

Emma holds a Ph.D. in Music Composition from Princeton University and is a graduate of Athlone Community College, NUI Maynooth and the Royal Irish Acadmey of Music.

One of the operatic pieces which formed part of her New York operatic debut last week is based on an award-winning play called ‘Trade’ written by her uncle Mark, who is the librettist for the opera. He is well-known as the scriptwriter for popular films such as ‘Adam and Paul’ and ‘Garage.’

Emma’s composition of the operatic version of 'Trade' has its origins in her selection in 2019 as the overall winner of the Beth Morrison Foundation Next Generation music composition award, which entitled her to funding to write an evening-length operatic work to be developed, premiered and toured by the Beth Morrison Projects.

'Trade' tells the story of two men in working-class Dublin, both trapped within their own lives. Set in a cheap hotel room, Older Man has solicited Young Man for a sexual encounter, a ritual that has happened many times before. Older Man is trapped by his marriage, his sexuality, and his deepening feelings for Young Man. Young Man is trapped by his need for money to support a young baby. In this dingy hotel room, they wrestle with their own inner demons and their need for each other.