Modern operas set for the big screen in Portaferry

Audiences are invited to experience three world class productions in a unique setting at the state-of-the-art Portico of Ards

A once-deteriorating church building that has now been restored into one of Northern Ireland's top arts venues is set to host a series of modern operas on its big screen this spring.

Part of the new season of events at the Portico of Ards in Portaferry, Opera Film Club invites arts lovers to experience top class productions in a unique, cinematic setting. Each screening will also be complimented a glass of wine or tea/coffee during the interval plus a chance to further discuss the films and music with opera critic Michael Quinn.

The season starts with Opera North’s enchanting staging of The Adventures of Pinocchio on Saturday, February 10 at 7.00pm. Jonathan Dove’s 21st opera is a wittily inventive feast for the eyes and ears. A full-length, through-composed grand opera with 29 characters, a sizeable chorus and a profound symphonic score, it is overflowing with visual delights.

A sublime achievement by Martin Duncan and team, this production shines a bright new light on Collodi’s dream-like original story, full of charm, darkness and magic. The superb ensemble stars Victoria Simmonds in the title role, and the orchestra and chorus respond splendidly under David Parry’s vibrant baton.

In Marco Polo, an opera within an opera’ (March 10, 7.00pm), composer Tan Dun portrays the Venetian explorer’s travels to the Far East as a journey of both inner and physical discovery, a voyage depicting spiritual experiences as well as a geographical expedition. At the same time the work, on a libretto by Paul Griffiths, can be seen as a compositional adventure of the composer himself, unifying the various cultural worlds he occupies: a blend of Western avant garde and Oriental traditions.

Marco Polo

Marco Polo

Pierre Audi’s mythical staging and Jean Kalman’s fabulous set design complement the composer’s own musical direction, forging the dazzlingly versatile soloists, the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and Cappella Amsterdam to a stunning symbiosis of elements across time and space, a true testimony to cultures intertwined in globalisation.

Opera Film Club rounds off its current run with a screening of Doctor Atomic by John Adams (March 24, 7.00pm). The longing to overcome human boundaries led the physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer to begin an experiment that formed a threat to the whole of humanity, and whose scientific results still do today. 

The question of the moral implications of the atomic bomb is raised in John Adams’ opera, just as much as that of the influence on the private lives of the main characters. Doctor Atomic is the fifth work to result from almost twenty years of collaboration between the American composer and his fellow American director and Erasmus Prize-winner Peter Sellars.

The Portico of Ards opened its doors in May 2016 following a restoration project which began two years earlier, and the formation of an action committee dating back as far as 2008. Now a state-of-the-art performance space and cultural cinema, the new-look venue plays host to a year-round programme of events ranging from classical music to live radio recordings. Read a feature on the building's transformation here.

Portico night

Tickets for all events including Opera Film Club can booked at or purchased at The Rock Bakery in Portaferry. Opera Film Club is supported by Ards and North Down Borough Council.