Irish National Opera

Irish National Opera - Dichotomies of Lockdown
Nov 03, 2020

Commissioned by Irish National Opera for 20 Shots of Opera in 2020.

"In a year of challenges and upheaval, Irish National Opera’s 20 Shots of Opera turns a spotlight on creativity and makes 2020 a year to remember for positive reasons. Conceived, composed, recorded and filmed in just six months, these 20 short operas showcase the breadth and depth of Irish operatic talent. Over 160 opera professionals from all corners of the artform contributed to 20 Shots of Opera: composers, writers, conductors, directors, designers, animators, singers, actors, orchestral musicians, audio, visual and technical experts. The project allowed Irish National Opera to deepen its relationship with many well-loved artists as well as forging new creative partnerships. This is opera at its most vibrant, with something to say on a huge range of topics; finding human connection, dealing with rejection, grief, illness and death, coping with psychological challenges, protecting the environment, living off-grid, pandemic dating, wetsuits, latex gloves, superspreaders, Beethoven’s laundry, microbiology and doughnuts. Creating these 20 operas has been a voyage of discovery and joy for all involved. We hope you enjoy watching them." - Irish National Opera

Dichotomies of Lockdown

In seven sad, funny, and absurd vignettes, two people navigate the changes within their world and within themselves in a time of pandemic. As they jump from one situation to another, we see how they adapt to new rituals and new vocabulary.

music and words Jenn Kirby

performers Aebh Kelly (mezzo-soprano), Andrew Gavin (tenor)

director Aoife Spillane-Hinks

conductor Elaine Kelly

All 20 operas can be watched on the Irish National Opera website



Also available on RTÉ Culture


"Jenn Kirby’s Dichotomies of Lockdown showed two people adapting to new rituals put in place as a result of Covid such as hand washing and wearing masks.  I was particularly impressed with the changes in texture and colour over the course of this short piece and the inventive vocal lines which were beautifully sung by mezzo Aebh Kelly and tenor Andrew Gavin.  In the final lines of the piece we heard the two singers singing ‘everything is great’ before finishing off with ‘everything is fucked’ – a sentiment felt, I think, by many at the moment!" - Robert Beattie for Seen and Heard International

"Despite having a truly off-putting title, “Dichotomies of Lockdown” is an expertly crafted work, which manages to successfully cram so much into seven short scenes. A window is opened onto the lives of two ordinary people, played by mezzo-soprano Aebh Kelly and tenor Andrew Gavin, during the lockdown. We follow their obsessive, banal, and strange behavior as they react to the pressures of lockdown. It is at times funny, sometimes depressing, occasionally bizarre, all the more so for the fact that we can recognize in them aspects of our own behavior.
It was well-presented by Spillane-Hinks who, aided by designer Katie Davenport, had the couple act out the scenes in a simple set comprising a white table and two chairs in a bright white room, hinting at the confines of a cell in a mental institution. Kirby’s music changes with the scenes, sometimes calm, sometimes repetitive and obsessive, occasionally playful, but always accessible. Kelly and Gavin both give commendable performances, endowing the two characters with strong personalities." - Alan Neilson for OperaWire

"[T]he scenery is conceivably reduced. A singer is sitting across from each other in a white room at a long white table on which lots of disinfectant is draped. Depending on the distance rule, the table can be extended between the two. To Minimal Music à la Philip Glass, the two singing explain terms that we have got used to dealing with, such as superspreader or R-factor. Jenn Kirby calls her short opera “Dichotomies of Lockdown”, in which she addresses the various stages and effects of the lockdown." - The Canadian

"Jenn Kirby’s Dichotomies of Lockdown is a series of witty vignettes based on the contrasting response of two people – mezzo-soprano Aebh Kelly and tenor Andrew Gavin – to living with the pandemic. Musically, the piece is pretty basic stuff indeed with transparently tonal harmonies and the repetitive patterns in no short supply. However the amusing text, written by Kirby herself, is well constructed and many people, especially those inclined towards ‘light’ humour, will be able to relate to the various character ‘traits’ that have appeared in those around us, and indeed in ourselves, during the course of the pandemic." - Adrian Smith for Journal of Music

"Jenn Kirby’s Dichotomies of Lockdown takes a lighter look at isolation, where mezzo-soprano Aebh Kelly and tenor Andrew Gavin sit at opposite ends of a long table in a sterile room singing of birdsong and sunshine. Bells announce new twists and new vocabulary in the pandemic—surge, two-meter distance, super-spreader, pods—and provoke desperate sterilizing, hand washing, face shields, and Zoom calls where 'Everything is wonderful' quickly turns into 'Everything is f—cked!'" - Opera News

"...perhaps it's Jenn Kirby's Dichotomies of Lockdown which best sums up 2020 as Aebh Kelly (mezzo) and Andrew Gavin (tenor) 'converse', moving from eulogising the garden birdsong to listing the dreary familiarities of lockdown life. Their opinion? 'We're f***ed!' Operatically, as this collection proves, we're definitely not." - Emer O'Kelly for

"Of the moment, full of character and rich in variety, these short filmed operas by 20 Irish composers and top performers are exemplary lockdown music-making. I’m so over Zoom… a personal best in the parkrun… cinnamon buns… two metre distance… Not my words, but a demonstration of how opera can mirror the zeitgeist as readily, and sharply, as any art form." - Fiona Maddocks for The Guardian