NI Opera

Northern Ireland Opera

Northern Ireland Opera, based at Belfast’s historic Grand Opera House, has a mission to provide the highest-quality opera to the widest possible audience. With a philosophy of excellence and risk-taking underpinned by an imaginative programming policy and first-rate casting, Northern Ireland Opera is committed to opera as a unique art form.

By keeping ticket-prices affordable, and through the regular (but not exclusive) use of English in performances, we are committed to widening the audience for opera: everyone will be welcome to our productions, from young to old, rich to poor, and from traditional opera-goers to those who have never seen an opera in their life before.

Northern Ireland Opera aims to promote the best of Northern Irish talent, engaging with local communities and young people, collaborating with other Northern Ireland arts organisations, and using some of the province’s most iconic spaces for its performances.

Northern Ireland Opera would like to thank all of its supporters, partners and collaborators, but particular thanks goes to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for its continuing support and guidance.


Sean Rafferty

Sean Rafferty, Patron of Northern Ireland Opera, was born in Belfast and brought up in Newcastle, Co. Down. He studied law at Queen's University. Belfast, and soon after began his career in broadcasting. Sean is a respected arts broadcaster, having presented a variety of radio and television programmes on BBC Radio 3, BBC Northern Ireland and BBC Radio Ulster. Since 1997 Sean has been the regular presenter of In Tune on Radio 3.

Meet the team

Oliver Mears, Artistic Director

Oliver read English and History at Oxford, and began his career assisting playwright Howard Barker, before going on to work
at the Kings Head, Islington (directing productions of Judith, Creditors and The Lesson), and in opera, working on productions in London (ENO, ROH), Leeds, Milan, Copenhagen, Tokyo, and Basel.

As Artistic Director of Second Movement Opera, Oliver directed many site-specific opera productions in London, including works by Mozart, Bernstein, Rimsky-Korsakov, Shostakovich/ Fleischmann, Barber, the world premiere of Stefan Weisman’s opera Fade, and a Czech Republic tour of Martinu’s The Knife’s Tears.

He has also directed a prison project with lifers, Sweeney Todd (HMP Kingston/Pimlico Opera), La Calisto (Early Opera Company), Hansel and Gretel (Opera North), the National Opera Studio Showcase 2010, The Bear (National Reisopera, Holland), My Brother’s Keeper (Edinburgh /Pleasance), Albert Herring (Aldeburgh) and David Almond’s critically-acclaimed play My Dad’s a Birdman, with original music by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe (Young Vic).

In 2012 he was nominated for an ‘Achievement in Opera’ award by the TMA Awards for his leadership of Northern Ireland Opera, and he was also nominated for ‘Best Newcomer’ in the 2013 Opera Awards..

Clíona Donnelly, General Manager

Clíona studied History at Queen’s University, Belfast, and then completed a MSC in Marketing and Entrepreneurship at the University of Ulster. She previously worked for the Dublin Business School and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin before moving back to Belfast to join the Northern Ireland Opera team in March 2011.

Rachel Clarke, Financial and Artistic Administrator

A Music graduate from the University of Ulster, Rachel joined Northern Ireland Opera in October 2013, having previously worked for the UK City of Culture 2013 in Derry~Londonderry as part of the Music Promise team.

Steven Hadley, Marketing and Communications Director

Steven is an arts marketing and management consultant with over twenty years’ experience in both the visual and performing arts. As Chief Executive, Steven led the development of Audiences NI, the audience development agency for Northern Ireland. He has significant experience of working with a wide range of funders, local councils and government depts. Steven holds an MBA and currently researches and teaches at Queen’s University Belfast.

The Northern Ireland Opera Board

Roy Bailie OBE, Chairman
Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle CBE, Vice-Chairman
James Hunt
Stephen Kingon CBE
Ken Lindsay
Professor Dolores O'Reilly
Jane Wells

If there’s anything more you want to know about the company or if you have any questions about the 2012 / 2013 season, please do get in touch. You can call us on +44 (0)28 9027 7734, or send us an email at