Belfast-based company Northern Ireland Opera has revealed it is to premiere Nobody/Somebody, a new opera aimed at teenagers and young adults, at the Belfast Children’s Festival, which runs from 3-5 March.

The one-act opera was commissioned with funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland during the pandemic. The libretto was written by award-winning playwright Fionnuala Kennedy, with music composed by Neil Martin.

Nobody/Somebody was inspired by the campaigning work of the youth activists of Belfast-based human rights organisation PPR. They have worked to raise awareness of homelessness, housing stress and the lack of available social housing for young people in Belfast.

It tells the story of three young people who come together to campaign for better housing and living conditions. They are each experiencing a different type of housing stress or homelessness. A community worker, who has herself experienced homelessness as a young person, encourages the teenagers to campaign for better social housing. Will their voices be heard?

“We’re excited to bring the world premiere of Nobody/Somebody, a new opera commission inspired by incredible activists in Belfast campaigning for social housing,” Kennedy commented about her first opera commission. “We can’t wait for audiences to find out more about the project at the Belfast Children’s Festival.

“This new opera is inspired by the difficult situations faced by families in housing stress here and the incredible activism from these young people to speak their truth to power, expose the issues and offer solutions to transform the potential for housing and equal rights here.

“I’m always grateful to get the opportunity to be inspired by and create work for and about young people – this bold new opera celebrates the resilience, activism and power of a generation trying to change our world for the better.”

The opera is written for teens and young adults and will be performed by NI Opera artists and the musicians of the Ulster Youth Orchestra. Young adults will be involved in the creation of the work too, with youth counterparts – selected through a new initiative with Belfast-based youth charity Springboard Opportunities – working with the opera company’s creative team on the production.

Nobody/Somebody will be directed by Andrea Ferran. Matthew Quinn conducts, with Sean O’Neill as movement director and Marie Kirkby as costume designer.

The work will receive its world premiere as part of the Belfast Children’s Festival on 3 March at Belfast’s Elmwood Hall. Further performances take place at the same venue on 4 and 5 March. Tickets for all performances cost £10 and are on sale now.

Composer Martin said: “For me, writing this opera has heightened some core universal issues that are more relevant today than ever. That its world premiere will be at the Children’s Festival here in Belfast is both an honour and wholly appropriate. We’re all very keen to share this work with audiences young, old and in-between.”



Northern Ireland Opera’s new opera for youth audiences Nobody/Somebody will premiere at the Belfast Children’s Festival in March.