Oliver Mears


Oliver Mears

Oliver Mears is Artistic Director of Northern Ireland Opera (NIO) [Click here for NIO profile in Opera Magazine ]

Oliver studied at Lincoln College, Oxford University to gain a 1st class BA Degree in English and History.
He is also Artistic Director of Second Movement.

Nominated for the Achievement in Opera category for his inspiring leadership of Northern Ireland Opera, TMA Awards 2012
Nominated for Newcomer Award (Conductor or Director) International Opera Awards 2013

Northern Ireland Opera

Rupert Christiansen in Daily Telegraph 7.1.2013 in open letter to new ACE Chief Sir Peter Bazalgette:
'North of the border (and outside ACE’s remit). I love the idea of a bold cross-border initiative (Celtic Opera?) with a major role for Oliver Mears, the forceful and talented young man currently making a significant success of Northern Ireland Opera.'

Don Giovanni Bergen Nasjonale Opera, Norway

Northern Ireland Opera
Set Design: Annemarie Woods

L'Elisir d'Amore

NI Opera
Set Design: Annemarie Woods

* Irish Times Awards 2014 nominee for Best Opera *
'Mears's fast-moving, inventive and sensitive staging was full of good things: I particularly liked a foolish wedding-feast parade of historical lovers. There weren't too many subtexts here, but this was among the most unaffectedly heart-warming and well-thought-out Elisirs you could hope for.' Robert Thicknesse - Live Reviews UK
'Mears's Elixir of Love is sung in English and his update transfers the action to a university in which Adina is a bluestocking lecturer, Nemorino a calow student, Belcore an army recruiting officer and Dulcamara a travelling salesman whose potions are so popular with the students that he gets a don's gown and cap as his reward at the end. It's a witty, if not entirely plausible, conceit, entertainingly done thanks to the excellent acting performances he get from his youthful Anglo-Irish cast.' Hugh Canning - Opera Magazine
The Bear NI Opera
Design: Simon Holdsworth
Lighting Design: Kevin Treacy
The Magic Flute

Nevill Holt Opera
Design: Simon Holdsworth
Lighting Design: Kevin Treacy

'the ultra-smooth stage changes, confirmed designer Simon Holdsworth and director Oliver Mears as a creative force of astoundingly fertile and relevant invention. A ‘snipping’ ballet – four chorus members with shears – was one of umpteen points when the wit and confidence of this deliciously subtle Flute shone through….I’ve seen plenty of good Flutes: Nevill Holt’s was easily up with the best.’ Roderic Dunnett, Opera Now
'Mears and his cast told the story with admirable point and clarity, not to mention plenty of wit.' Opera
The Flying Dutchman NI Opera

'Mears's staging grows ever more absorbing and delivers the goods thrillingly in the final scenes' - The Stage

'electrifying' - Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

'a thrilling Wagner debut' - Anna Picard, The Independent on Sunday

'an achievement of which Wagner no doubt himself would have been proud...directed with a brilliantly sure touch' - Hugo Shirley, The Daily Telegraph

'Belfast has done Wagner proud....Oliver Mears's direction gives both space and urgency to the drama' - Hilary Finch, The Times

'nothing could bear better testimony to Northern Ireland's operatic renaissance...Oliver Mears's staging treads a cleverly emblematic line' - John Allison, Sunday Telegraph

'a narrative clear and free of gratuitous imagery' - Andrew Clements, The Guardian

Hansel & Gretel NI Opera
Design: Simon Holdsworth
Noye's Fludde NI Opera
Design: Simon Holdsworth
'Across the Irish Sea in Belfast, NI Opera is anticipating the Britten centenary with a lively and colourful staging of of his children's opera Noye's Fludde...Thanks to money from KT Wong Foundation - and an invitation to appear at the Bejing festival in October - Oliver Mears' witty, contemporary staging had a Far Eastern flavour that would surely have delighted the composer of The Prince of the Pagodas and the Japanese Noh-based Church Parables. The designer, Simon Holdsworth, transformed the Ark into a Chinese junk, while the animals were imagined as huge paper lanterns carried by children in beautiful crimson Chinese uniforms. The storm was evoked by a magical fan dance (the fans painted to represent the winds and the waves)'
The Sunday Times
Turn of The Screw NI Opera
Design: Annemarie Woods
Lighting Design: Kevin Treacy
'It's a Screw any company would be proud to tour. From a company that is barely a year old, it's remarkable.'
The Independent
'In the week when the site-specific staging of Tosca won this year's Irish Times award for Best Opera, this clear, untendentiously provocative and strongly sung production of Britten's chamber masterpiece shows NI Opera forging further forward.' Irish Theatre Magazine
'Director Oliver Mears has mustered a classy and classic production, allowing Britten's sound world plenty of scope to resonate.. ' The News Letter
'Director Oliver Mears has proved again that his opera company can bring together a rich amalgam of locally based and imported talent.' Belfast Telegraph
Orpheus in the Underworld Scottish Opera
Design: Simon Holdsworth
Lighting Design: Kevin Treacy
'This fast-moving, sharply intelligent, visually attractive staging of Offenbach’s little masterpiece of folly and frippery underlines Mears’s credentials as a director with a clear, coherent vision of the pieces he’s producing, and the ability to elicit excellent performances from his singing actors.' Culture Northern Ireland
'Mears plays Orpheus as a zippy, fast-moving satire on contemporary mores, exactly Offenbach’s conception in the 1858 Parisian original. He’s excellent at creating sharply distinctive identities for characters, and strikes an adept balance between giving them too much comic business to attend to, and too little. He has also cast the operetta very astutely: a singer who isn’t also a gifted comic actor sinks miserably in this kind of multi-tasking environment, but all of the Orpheus protagonists are confidently at home in the rapid musical slapstick that is the lingua franca of this production. ... it is ultimately the unifying vision of director Oliver Mears which matters most in getting this bold re-imagining of Orpheus to gel theatrically. Faced with a daunting brief to expand audiences, tour more, and make productions popular and accessible, he’s created for Northern Ireland Opera a show that’s full of fizz, contemporary relevance and belly laughter, without cheapening the core artistic values the company will need to build on as it develops further into the future. ' Irish Theatre Magazine
'this production fizzed along with neat timing, decidedly bawdy humour and some neat choreography' Irish Times
'...this was a raucously enjoyable affair, staged with energy and imagination and sung, danced and acted with wit and flair by every member of the team. Come the irresistible can-can, even the prim little old lady sitting next to me let out a little whoop of delight.' Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph
'Directed by Oliver Mears, this new and very colourful production probes the depths of recent celebrity scandals to present a sensational and energetic revival of a classic play.' Amy Taylor, The Journal
Albert Herring Aldeburgh Music
Design: Annemarie Woods
'Director Oliver Mears is himself at the start of what on this evidence looks like a very promising career indeed and his first notable success here was in casting. The suspension of disbelief was enforced with comparatively little of the embarrassment that can arise from heaping decades of maturity on young shoulders.... In the aftermath of the May King fete – where poor Albert is revealed like a white satin attired Nazi youth parody festooned in flowers against a giant Union Jack – Mears pulls a masterstroke by staging the orchestral interlude (something I’ve never seen done before) as a lurid vision of Albert’s intoxication: first by transforming the distinguished “assembly” into a row of scoffing pigs (cue the rubber masks) and then by a series of “reveals” as Albert’s growing sexual frustration sees the village “at it” in every nook and cranny – yes, even Lady Billows and her housekeeper Florence Pike.' Edward Seckerson, The Independent
'..the main draw of the weekend was a new production of Albert Herring that proved a total joy...' Michael White, The Telegraph
Tosca Northern Ireland Opera
Design: Simon Holdsworth
Lighting Design: Kevin Treacy
'Out of the shadows of the Troubles steps a sparkling new national opera company......Two dramas coursed through NI Opera's triumphant debut production in Londonderry....The first was that of Tosca, updated to the 1970's by director Oliver Mears in a three-venue, site-specific staging. The second was that of a city opening Protestant and Roman Catholic buildings to audiences and performers from both communities in a week in which rehearsals and performances were disrupted by real and hoax bombs in the city. History is not a faraway thing in Derry. It's weighty, complex and contentious. Yet for three days, St Columb's Anglican Cathedral became Sant'Andrea della Valle, complete with monstrance, madonna and incense.() With the orchestra to one side, the balance under conductor Nicholas Chalmers was near-ideal, the ornate off-stage cantata clear, the instrumental solos sinuous and predatory. Obsessively cleaning his spectacles, Carey-Jones's slight Scarpia grew in stature as he detailed his manifesto of rape and sexual assault, while Allen navigated Tosca's trajectory from contemptuous diva to lost child to murderess, her sound and phrasing compelling and idiomatic. This was no swift stab but a slow, sweaty mutilation. () The standing ovation was a given, and fully deserved by all involved, from the three principles to Molloy's desperate Angelotti, Scarpia's henchmen, the young local chorus, the orchestra, the smallest choirboy. After decades of hosting touring productions, Derry had its own opera, cast to compete with Leeds, Cardiff and Glasgow, and developed with a new company that is adamantly regional in focus. A tour of Orpheus in the Underworld follows this autumn, then Hansel and Gretel in Belfast. I'll be there. Will you?' Anna Picard, Independent
'It's a remarkable achievement. Not only has Northern Ireland Opera been launched at a time when our arts companies have never been more cash-strapped, but its debut show took the riskiest route: a city with little or no track history of opera and three different venues for each act. And the result breathed charisma and conviction.' Neil Fisher, The Times
My Dad's a Birdman Young Vic
'the climactic Great Human Bird Competition is brilliantly staged in 'Oliver Mears’s sad, funny and inventive production' Charles Spencer, The Telegraph
'Oliver Mears captivating small-scale production has as much panache as pathos...'
Susannah Clapp, The Guardian
The Knife's Tears Prague/Brno
Design: Simon Holdsworth
Studio Showcase National Opera Studio
Lighting Design: Kevin Treacy
The Bear Nationale Reisopera, Grachtenfestival
Design: Simon Holdsworth
Scenes National Opera Studio
L'incoronazione di Poppea (Schools Project) Glyndebourne Opera Education
Hansel and Gretel Opera North Education


'On Monday afternoon, I went to Opera North's new Howard Assembly Rooms in Leeds to watch a performance of Humperdinck's dark and funny opera Hansel and Gretel. It was a tiny production, with a cast of six and a six-piece orchestra. It's been doing the tounds in Kendal, Bridlington, Newark and Stockton-on-Tees. Glamorous? Not really.

The following night, I took my £10 ticket to see the same opera at Covent Garden (yes, you can go to the ROH for an affordable price). In the pit: the great Royal Opera House orchestra, conducted by living legend Sir Colin Davis. Onstage: a variety of other living legends including Thomas Allen, the divine Anja Silja as the witch, and Angelika Kirchschlager as Hänsel.

At Leeds, I had the unusual operatic experience of being the oldest person in the theatre. Nearly everyone else was a squirming 9-year-old – and, I have to say, they were fabulously engaged and excited by what was going on. At the Royal Opera there hardly a child to be seen, although this is a quintessential family opera (though not easy viewing – it has the cruelty and darkness contained within so many of Grimms' fairytales).

And which production told me more about the piece?

Opera North's – by young director Oliver Mears – by a length and a half. For a start, it was just so meticulously acted. Frances Bourne was an uncannily detailed Hansel – she just was a thuggish little boy. Claire Wild was a brilliant young girl, too. And you can say many things about Kirchschlager – but you can't accuse of her of being a great actor. There was far too much skipping, gambolling and gurning from the Royal Opera's pair of "children".

Meanwhile, for me Mears communicated so much more about the piece – that this is an opera about abject poverty and desperate wish-fulfillment. When his Hansel and Gretel ran through the door of their sink-estate flat, threw their school bags on the floor and mucked around their foodless, parentless kitchen in the first scene you got a real sense of them as hungry, neglected kids. And that atavistic terror, the childish fear of being abandoned by those who are supposed to care for us, is at the heart of the opera. Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, directing for the ROH, might have filled their versions with all kinds of fascinating visual references, from Matthew Barney to Mauricio Cattelan, but did it get to the heart of the piece? Not for me.

The clincher? Oliver Mears had the witch pushed into a giant microwave. Mark Le Brocq revolved on a turntable before turning redder and redder and finally emitting large quantities of smoke. It was just priceless.

What's my point? Well, it's always a brilliant treat to go to the Opera House, and its production was spectacular, luxurious and beautiful. But if I had to go and see one of those productions again, I'd pick Opera North's. Bigger, it turns out, doesn't always mean better.'
Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian

Trouble in Tahiti - Sondheim
A Hand of Bridge - Barber
Fade (World Premiere) - Stefan Weisman
Second Movement
Design: Simon Holdsworth
'Three complimentary glimpses of the sterile lives and straining hearts that are the truth behind the Good Life in America, this triple-bill was a smart idea from a sassy, new, and evidently well-connected little company called Second Movement. And that it played in the raw circumstances of a shabby (though interesting) Victorian music-hall in a rough quarter of east London, gave the whole thing fashionable edge. This fledgling company knows what it's about.'
'Overall, there was a good feel abouth this young company: an energy, a sense of self-belief and keen ambition. And whatever its rough-edges musically, it had panache. The DNA of something special in the making..'

Michael White, Opera Now
Sweeney Todd Pimlico Opera
(prison project)
Design: Simon Holdsworth
La Calisto by Cavalli Iford Arts Festival
Design: Chloe Lamford
'This Calisto was definitely a question of sex, drugs, Baroque and roll: these days a not unpredictable approach to 17th century Italian opera, but actually very wittily conceived here by the director Oliver Mears and musical director Christian Curnyn.'
Rian Evans,Opera

Rothschild's Violin
Tears of the Knife
The Two Blindmen

Covent Garden Film Studios
Second Movement
Designer: Simon Holdsworth

'Now in its fourth year of staging rarely heard operas in unusual places, Second Movement has found its groove. The company's ambition is undimmed, its young stage and musical directors Oliver Mears and Nicholas Chalmers are displaying more confidence, the orchestra has new zing and bite...'
Anna Picard, The Independent
'..Rothschild's Violin,...a devastating, compressed piece about anti-Semitism, and in this sharp performance packed a strong punch.'
Michael Tanner, The Spectator
'Simon Holdsworth's effective designs peel back as each opera is completed, and Oliver Mears' stagings hit three nails on the head.'
George Hall, The Stage

2001 - 2006
My Brother's Keeper C Central, Edinburgh Festival
and The Pleasance Theatre, London.
Apikoros Theatre Company
'Oliver Mears production manages to reach beneath the gags and touch on the aching loneliness consuming these two imperiled men, for whom religion is their only comfort and the source of their agony.' Siobhan Murphy, The Metro
'... a perceptive & exemplary insight into fear & misfortune, deception & denial.... hard-hitting but hilarious....' Three Weeks, The Daily Edinburgh Fringe Festival Guide.
The Impresario
The Medium
Covent Garden Film Studios
Second Movement
Designer: Simon Holdsworth
'The Medium clearly gripped the audience... genuinely entertaining... Director Oliver Mears provided two skilful productions...' George Hall, Opera Now Magazine, March / April 2006

Trouble In Tahiti

Hoxton Hall, London
Second Movement
Designer: Simon Holdsworth

Mozart & Salieri

The Grosvenor Chapel, Mayfair
Second Movement

Ward 6

Caird Company


Kings Head

The Lesson Kings Head
Judith Kings Head
1998 - 2000
The Importance of Being Earnest Old Fire Station, Oxford
The Changling Old Fire Station, Oxford
The Merchant of Venice Old Fird Station, Oxford
Mein Kampf Burton - Taylor
The Birds The Oxford Playhouse
'Tis Pity She's a Whore Old Fire Station, Oxford
The Government Inspector Old Fire Station, Oxford


Oliver has also worked extensively as an assistant / staff director with Christopher Alden, Steven Pimlott, Howard Barker, and in particular with Richard Jones, in productions with The Royal Opera House Covent Garden, The English National Opera and Welsh National Opera.

Agent - Loesje Sanders

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last update : 27 February, 2014