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Cardiff Interdisciplinary Research in Opera and Drama (CIRO)

Cardiff Interdisciplinary Research in Opera and Drama (CIRO) provides a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration in opera and drama research both within and beyond Cardiff University.

CIRO was officially launched in May 2012 at the School of Music’s ‘Love to Death: Transforming Opera’ conference held at the Wales Millennium Centre in association with Welsh National Opera and the Royal Musical Association.

CIRO is an interdisciplinary network bringing together scholars and practitioners – composers, directors, librettists, dramaturgs, translators and surtitlers – working on a range of topics and methods for the study and creation of opera and drama.

We facilitate knowledge exchange between academia and the professional performance world both in Wales and beyond. We have privileged exchanges with Welsh National Opera, Music Theatre Wales, Opera’r Ddraig and Cardiff Singer of the World.

CIRO hosts a variety of events each year, including guest lectures, public study days, conferences and seminars with international speakers, innovative workshops and panel discussions (see events page).

We offer doctoral scholarships (fees only) to outstanding candidates whose work will benefit from the interdisciplinary nature of the network and our links to external partners, and whose work will in turn enhance the research profile of the network.

The first doctoral scholarship was awarded in 2015 to professional opera director Dr Benjamin Davis, working on a practice-based study on ‘Performing Realism’ in contemporary opera productions (completed 2019), and Ben then joined CIRO as an associate researcher. Ben was staff director at Welsh National Opera from 2001-2011, and now combines teaching and research with freelance directing projects.

He collaborated with composer and CIRO co-director member Robert Fokkens, librettist Mkhululi Mabija and singer Njabulo Madlala in creating Bhekizizwe, an operatic monodrama exploring themes of apartheid in South Africa and immigration to the UK.

He directed the digital film production with Opera’r Ddraig, premiered online in the BBC Gwyl/Wales Millennium Centre Festival of Voice in March 2021. In November/December 2022, Davis directed Opera'r Ddraig's live production of Fokkens’s Bhekizizwe, which toured to venues in Wales with further Arts Council Wales funding.


CIRO hosts a variety of events each year, including guest lectures, public study days, conferences and seminars with international speakers, innovative workshops and panel discussions.

Bringing together such a diverse range of expertise leads to publications, new creative work, and funding applications for multi- and interdisciplinary research projects.

Public lectures


  • Professor Paulo Mugayar Kühl (Unicamp, Brazil), ‘Italian Opera in Transnational Perspectives’ (March)


  • Dr Peter Morgan Barnes, Freelance Librettist and Director, ‘Pasticcio Opera: the Purist’s Provocation and the Manager’s Salvation’ (March)


  • Dr Benjamin Davis (CIRO) in conversation with Jarry Glavin (Freelance transgender dancer), ‘Finding Hannah “in-between”: An experiment in A/R/Tography around the event of the UK premiere of As One, for Lontano Festival of American Music in London 2021’ (December)


  • Dr Laura Möckli (University of Bern), ‘Bootleg Opera’ (October)
  • Dr Monika Hennemann, ‘Felix Mendelssohn’s Oper und Drama’ (October)


  • Dr Alexandra Wilson (Oxford Brookes University), ‘Opera: Highbrow, Middlebrow, Lowbrow… Elitist?’ (November)
  • Dr Clair Rowden, ‘The Sopranos, Parisian Style, 1869’ (November)
  • Professor Derek Scott (University of Leeds), ‘A forgotten transcultural entertainment industry: early twentieth-century operetta from the German stage’ (February)


  • Professor Gundula Kreuzer (Yale University), ‘Science, Timbre and Wagner’s Gong’ (March)
  • Dr Robert Fokkens, ‘Towards a New Opera’ (February)


  • Professor Anne Kauppala (University of the Arts, Helsinki), ‘Negotiating Anti-Semtisim on the opera stage: Wäinö Sola’s adaptation of La Juive at the Finnish National Opera (1925)’ (March)


  • Dr Paul Rodmell (University of Birmingham), ‘Revisiting Edward Loder (1809-1865): The Operas Reconsidered’ (November)

Public Engagement events


  • Prof Jan Smaczny (Emeritus Queen’s University Belfast), Tomáš Hanus (WNO principal conductor), Elizabeth Llewellyn (soprano), ‘Discovering Jenůfa’ (February)


  • ‘Caruso at 100: The Legacy of an Operatic Icon’, in collaboration with Dr Carlo Cenciarelli, Dr Barbara Gentili, Professor Alexandra Wilson (Oxford Brookes University) and Welsh National Opera Associate Artist Adam Gilbert (September)


  • Dr Clair Rowden, ‘Discover Verdi's Les Vêpres siciliennes’, in collaboration with Friends of WNO, Cardiff University (February)


  • Dr Clair Rowden, ‘Carmen: Performance, Performers and Productions’, in collaboration with Friends of WNO, Cardiff University (September)


  • ‘Mametz Wood, poetry and song’, Public study day in collaboration with Welsh National Opera, Wales Millennium Centre (May)

Workshops for students and the public


  • ‘The Languages of Music: An Interdisciplinary Creative Workshop’, with the collaboration of Welsh National Opera, Dr Ben Davis (CIRO) and Dr Peter Morgan Barnes (freelance librettist and director) (March)


  • ‘The Languages of Opera: A Creative Workshop’, online workshop, with the collaboration of Dr Ben Davis (director), and Themba Mvula (baritone) (March)


  • ‘Understanding Opera: Adventures in Surtitling’, Welsh National Opera, with the collaboration of Dr Ben Davis (March)


  • ‘Opera creation, translation and surtitling’, Welsh National Opera (March)


  • Composer workshop with WNO, Iain Bell and Elena Langer, facilitated by Dr Robert Fokkens

International conferences


  • Carmen Singer of the World, international conference in collaboration with BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, including public workshop events with acclaimed opera director Annabel Arden and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, organised by Dr Clair Rowden (June)


  • ‘International Artistic Creation during WWI’, National Museum Cardiff, co-organised by Dr Monika Hennemann and Dr Clair Rowden (November)


  • ‘Translation in Music: International Interdisciplinary Symposium’, Cardiff University, co-organised by Dr Monika Hennemann, Dr Clair Rowden and Cristina Marinetti (May)
    • Included ‘Weill acts’, a performance-lecture exploring ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’ in translation by Sophie Rashbrook (director) and Sian Cameron (mezzosoprano) which received and Arts Council Wales small development grant.


  • ‘Stages of Death: Men, Women and Suffering in Opera and Ballet’, part of interdisciplinary symposium Before I die: A festival for the living about dying, Cardiff University.

Commemorating WWI: Conflict and Creativity (2016)

A number of events in 2016 were planned to coincide with WNO’s newly commissioned opera In Parenthesis – an adaptation of David Jones’s World War I epic poem of the same title – by librettists Emma Jenkins and David Antrobus, and composer Iain Bell, as well as with the National Museum Cardiff’s concurrent exhibition 'War is Hell: The Art and Poetry of Mametz Wood', where sketches by David Jones were on public display for the first time.

Between May and November 2016, CIRO will ran a series of public Friday lunchtime lectures at the NMC, a study day on ‘Mametz, poetry and song’, and an international symposium ‘Musical and Artistic Creation in Europe during WWI’ in collaboration with KU Leuven and Heidelberg University, including a recital by Sir Thomas Allen of English song, and the Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra performing Laura Rossi’s new film score live to a screening of the 1916 film 'The Battle of the Somme' by Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell.

The whole series of events was supported by an AHRC Cultural Encounters Fellowship.

The international interdisciplinary conference ‘Translation in Music’ in 2014 brought together opera and translation practitioners from major opera houses, including Royal Opera House and Opera North, with academics, sparking stimulating debate on surtitles, the accessibility of opera, the translation of popular music within a multi-disciplinary framework and the ethics of translation.

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