Spirits Unsurrendered - RIAM Opera & Then This Theatre, featuring new music and arrangements by Stephen McNeff

4 November 2023 15:30 - 5 November 2023 15:30

Kilmainham Gaol

A journey to remember the Women of 1923 incarcerated in Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin 

Libretto by Aoife Spillane-Hinks based on the writings of the Women of 1923. Music by Stephen McNeff and from traditional sources 

Have you ever stopped to think what a power weapon a key is? It is only a simply-fashioned piece of mechanism, yet it can mean open sesame to love, home, friendship, or it can shut out all these; it can mean liberty or bondage…

 - Margaret Buckley, The Jangle of Keys 

Keys signified all of these things to the over 300 women held as anti-treaty prisoners in the Kilmainham Gaol between 1922 and 1923. Some of these women were already well known or would soon become so: Grace Gifford, Mary McSweeney, Dorothy Macardle. But after their imprisonment, the majority of the women returned to anonymity in the ordinary lives they’d left behind.  In 2023, these women are once more in our midst –and in the Gaol–through the songs and stories of Spirits Unsurrendered

Librettist and director Aoife Spillane-Hinks draws from letters, diaries, and other documents written by the women prisoners to reveal their resilience and ingenuity. CMC Composer Stephen McNeff blends original music with traditional songs and sounds from the period to summon the joys, fears and resoluteness of the remarkable group of individuals. 

Performed in collaboration with RIAM Opera, Then This Theatre, Kilmainham Gaol/OPW, the Rathdown Cantori, and celebrated conductor David Brophy, this World Premiere will mark the centenary of the end of the Civil War, celebrate the women’s iconic role in the creation of modern Ireland, and illuminate the relevance of their stories to our contemporary world.

PLEASE NOTE: This site-specific work takes place in November in an old building with no heating. Winter clothing / outdoor wear is strongly recommended.

This project has been supported by the Dublin City Council, the Arts Council, and The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, as part of the Decade of Commemorations.


€10-22. Tickets available via the RIAM website.


Kilmainham Gaol

Inchicore Road, Dublin, IE D08 T2X5

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