Interview with Joe O’Curneen, co-director and creator of ‘A Comedy of Operas’

"“A Comedy of Operas” is a musical comedy featuring some of the world’s most famous arias, combined with a number of pop and rock hits as well. It’s a story of a troupe of five eccentric performers in search of love and acclaim."

Interview with Joe O’Curneen, co-director and creator of ‘A Comedy of Operas’

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

I’m Joe O’Curneen, co-director and creator of the show “A Comedy of Operas”. I’m a founding member of Yllana, a Spanish theatre company that specialises in comedy and physical theatre. I’ve spent over thirty years developing shows that have been to more than forty different countries. 

How would you describe your show?

“A Comedy of Operas” is a musical comedy featuring some of the world’s most famous arias, combined with a number of pop and rock hits as well. It’s a story of a troupe of five eccentric performers in search of love and acclaim. This is opera without the boring bits. An undeniably operatic experience, condensed, dynamic, fast pace, and at times truly moving.

What is your favourite part of the show?

The fact that merging physical comedy to opera has worked so well. The beauty and power of the arias are preserved and felt intensely, even in a comedic context.  There is a wonderful scene where the baritone tests the audiences’ knowledge of opera. You’d be surprised to know how many people actually do know these tunes, and sing along. 

If your show had a theme song, what would it be and why?

I’d have to say Nessun Dorma by Puccini. Undoubtedly one of the best arias of all time. It has been one of our main sources of inspiration.

What is one thing you hope audiences will take away from your show?

The desire to revisit the classics, and a growing interest in our work as a company.

If you could add a surprise celebrity cameo to your show, who would it be and why?

Undoubtedly Pavarotti, but then again… Mika would be great too. There is a brief tribute in the show to one of Mika’s famous songs.

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

First and foremost, we were thrilled and truly honoured to receive an offer from Anthony Alderson, the director of the Pleasance Theatre. We felt we couldn’t turn down such a magnificent offer. We believe Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the best place to showcase, and potentially to secure a UK and international tour.

What differentiates it from other festivals?

For us, for Yllana, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has given us more visibility than any other. We’ve been back many times since our first appearance in 1993. The outcome has been, in general, very positive. We’ve been able to secure international bookings as a result of our many visits to the festival.

What is one thing you would change about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

Help to make the experience more cost effective, especially for the companies coming from abroad. Costs are very high.

How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career?

The most decisive moment for me was when I happily abandoned my first career choice, business administration, and went to film school. From there, I went on to do theatre, co-founded Yllana, produced and directed shows and ended up… administering a business.       

What is your favourite thing about performing for a live audience?

Witnessing that very special moment when the audience watching the show is deeply moved and laughing, simultaneously. 

What’s the most challenging or unconventional venue you’ve ever performed in and how did it impact the overall experience?

We did an event on a tiny stage without the set, and yet the audience were thrilled. The proximity to the performers added to the enjoyment. 

Is there a piece of feedback you’ve received from an audience member or critic after a performance that’s stuck with you?

With this take on opera we feared we had committed some form of sacrilege. But when an expert congratulated us after the show, those fears dissipated.

What is your favourite thing to do in Edinburgh when you’re not performing? How do you relax and look after your mental health?

Being a spectator and enjoying the wide variety of shows on display. I love to walk the streets, and revisit the sites in Edinburgh. Regarding mental health, keep your bullshit detector fine-tuned. All the misinformation barrage is making people go nuts.

Is there a show you’re excited to see when you’re up there?

Apart from Showstopper! The improvised musical, I’d love to see some of the work other physical theatre companies are currently doing.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone thinking about taking a show up to Edinburgh?

Plan it all well in advance.

When and where can people see your show?

‘Comedy of Operas’ is at the Pleasance @ The EICC – Pentland at 5.30pm from

2nd – 27th August plus 12th @ 2.30pm (not 9, 16, 21, 24) for tickets go to www.edfringe.com 

And where can people find you online?

www.yllana.com

Header Image Credit: Provided

Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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