Front of House is a short site-specific opera which was created for the foyer of Cork Opera House. It was first performed at the Cork Midsummer Festival in June 2017. The project was funded by the Arts Council of Ireland and it was the third production by Ulysses Opera Theatre since 2012.
The libretto is by Lily Akerman, a New York based writer who specialises in music theatre texts. The piece subverts conventional operatic forms and narratives by using unexpected protagonists in a non-traditional performance space. Two of the characters are hoovers (vacuum cleaners) and the 3rd character is a Floor Polisher. In the production it is left deliberately ambiguous as to whether the singers are playing cleaners or the cleaning machinery. This seemingly absurd situation results in fantastical and expressive possibilities. The fact that the cleaners/hoovers work in an opera house makes it both poignant and hilarious that they are actually played by opera singers.
The music is entirely based on the tone produced by one of the Cork Opera House vacuum cleaners which we used in the production. This drone (between C and D flat) inspired the musical material. Tom Lane's music is unashamedly expressive and expansive, allowing the singers to demonstrate rich melodic lines and to deploy their impressive ranges. The instrumental accompaniment is scored for percussion and clarinet. This scoring allows the ensemble to be flexibly located throughout the promenade site-specific performance.