This season, Wexford Festival Opera will present a programme inspired by Shakespeare and will present three main stage operas as well as a number of concerts and pocket operas.
A little south of Dublin, along the Irish east coast, you’ll find Wexford – home of the National Opera House and known internationally as the home of Wexford Festival Opera. In a country steeped in ancient stories, the Irish city of Wexford is no exception. This medieval town on the banks of the River Slaney in the country’s historic south east was founded in the early 900s by the Vikings, and their legacy includes the town’s many narrow winding streets. Given its location on the estuary of the River Slaney, Wexford was a bustling seaport throughout its history. However, the constantly shifting sands of Wexford Harbour meant that by the mid 20th-century, it had become unprofitable to keep dredging the channel to accommodate larger ships. What served as the lifeblood of the town since its Viking foundation was no longer able to be maintained, and the once-busy port closed for good.
In 1950, the renowned novelist, musicologist and founder of Gramophone Magazine, Compton Mackenzie, travelled to Wexford to give a lecture to the Wexford Opera Study Circle. At the close of his lecture, Mackenzie suggested that rather than listening to records in their little theatre as they had done for many years previously, the group should instead stage an opera of their own. From there a plan was formed and by the end of 1951 the first Wexford Festival of Music and the Arts took place, with the focal work being a performance of The Rose of Castille by Irish composer, Michael William Balfe. In 2006 the old Theatre Royal in the town’s centre, which had served the Festival for over 50 years, was demolished and replaced by Ireland’s first custom-built opera house: a state-of-the-art building with two auditoriums capable of staging ever more ambitious and spectacular productions. The amazing National Opera House was built in its place and it was inaugurated in September 2008 The stunning landmark building now stands proudly over the historic town, as a clear indication of how bold programming and a passion for the art form can put a small town like Wexford on the operatic map.
Opera Programme 2020
The 2020 Wexford Festival Opera will run from October 20 – November 1.
Composer Karl Goldmark, famous in Vienna throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, was born into an enormous Jewish family (Goldmark had over 20 siblings) in Hungary in 1830 .Ein Wintermärchen (A Winter’s Tale) successfully employs a unique and beautiful language, rich in melody and warmly chromatic. The Shakespearian play provides the plot for this lovely opera. Sophie Gordeladze stars as Hermione.
Dates: 20, 23 ( both at 20.00h) 26(17.00h), 29(20.00h) Oct 2020.
Le Songe d’une Nuit d’Été
In 1850 Ambroise Thomas wrote the Shakespearean potpourri Le songe d’une nuit d’été, which actually has little to do with A Midsummer Night’s Dream; it includes Falstaff, Elizabeth I and Shakespeare himself in the cast, and has an unusually high proportion of its action devoted to drinking… Apart from signalling the composer’s interest in Shakespeare, this opéra comique shows Thomas’ ability to fuse many of the operatic styles current in his day, and demonstrates his increasing skill at orchestration, particularly in the entr’actes. This will be a joy to experience.The role of Shakespeare is played by French tenor, Sébastien Guèze.
Dates: 21, 24, 27 ( all at 20.00h) Oct 2020, 1(20.00h) Nov 2020.
The plot of Alfredo Catalani’s Edmea is based on a play by Alexandre Dumas fils entitles Les Danicheff. The story concerns a girl adopted into a noble family who falls in love with the son of her protectors, is married off to a servant of said family, goes insane, is returned to sanity by her lover, and is widowed so she can marry the man she loves. The opera is set in Bohemia around 1600.
Dates: 22, 25, 28, 31 (all at 20.00h) Oct 2020.
Opera Gala Night
One of the highlights of Wexford Festival Opera, this night features a cornucopia of operatic delights from the members of the festival company. This is a very popular night, so early booking is recommended.
Date:26 (21.00h) Oct 2020.
Lisette Oropesa in Concert
American Lisette Oropesa is one of the most in demand lyric coloraturas today, who has triumphed in various roles throughout the most important houses in Europe and the US. She has a wide repertoire that includes works from Gluck, Handel, Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, Wagner, Verdi, Bizet, Massenet and Puccini. For one night only she is performing a special concert in Wexford.
Date: 30 (20.00h) Oct 2020.
Petite Messe Solennelle
Full of drama, pathos, colour and intensity, Rossini’s Petite Messe was written not for a church, but for performance to a select audience assembled in the lavishly furnished salon of a Parisian Countess’s newly built town house. This heartfelt religious work was Rossini’s last serious work—with it he sincerely hoped to gain admittance to the next world—and shows the extraordinary capabilities of this astonishing man of the theatre.
Date: 1( 15.30h) Nov 2020.
The Festival’s success is due in no small part to Wexford itself. The ancient Viking town, nestled on the banks of the River Slaney, has a character and charm all of its own and is a key part of what helps to make the Festival unique. Every year in October, as the excitement builds to opening night, the streets, pubs and restaurants are abuzz with opera fever.
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