The internationally renowned Festival, nominated for four awards in this year’s International Opera Awards, runs for 12 days from 22 October to 2 November. Artistic Director David Agler’s exciting programme will include three main stage operas, three daytime ShortWorks operas, a gala concert, as well as lunchtime recitals, concerts and a film. With something to appeal to those discovering the Festival for the first time or opera lovers who return year after year, Wexford Festival Opera is the event to plan for this autumn. Tickets for evening main stage operas start at €25 each, with tickets for daytime performances starting at just €10.
Wexford Festival Opera is one of the leading opera Festivals in the world and each year attracts audiences from home and abroad who travel to Wexford to experience this unique celebration of opera. Renowned for its presentation of rarely performed operas, the Festival also provides audiences with a unique opportunity to experience performances from leading names and emerging Irish and International talent in opera.
This year’s opening production is Salomé by Antoine Mariotte (1875-1944), one of the three main stage operas. This is a rarely-performed operatic version of Oscar Wilde’s perceptive play about Hérod’s dysfunctional family and the unhappy relationships between Hérod, his second wife Hérodias (who was also his sister-in-law and his niece) and his great-niece and stepdaughter Salomé. First produced in Lyon in 1908, Mariotte’s Salomé is infused with his impassioned and intense dramatic music, revealing in its subtle harmonies the influence of Debussy. The other two main stage operas are Don Bucefalo by Antonio Cagnoni and Silent Night by Kevin Puts.
Don Bucefalo by Antonio Cagnoni (1828-1896) is a delightfully good-humoured comic opera – an opera within an opera – reminiscent of Rossini and Donizetti. The opera tells the story of Don Bucefalo, who introduces himself as a singing teacher, extolling the rewards of working in the theatre: travel, love, wealth and luxuries. Rosa takes him up on his offer of singing lessons as a means of bettering herself socially, and Don Bucefalo and Don Marco compose an opera and prepare for its performance. But before the (inevitable) happy ending there is rivalry between singers, marital jealousy, the return of a long-lost husband, and the difficulties of putting on a new opera.
In recognition of the centenary of the Great War it is only fitting to present Silent Night by Kevin Puts (b. 1972), which will receive its European premiere at Wexford this October. Commissioned by Minnesota Opera and first performed in 2011 to great critical acclaim, it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2012. The opera’s librettist Mark Campbell was inspired by the 2005 film Joyeux Noël, about the spontaneous 1914 Christmas truce between enemy combatants in the First World War. At its core is a powerful message that war is not sustainable when you come to know your enemy as a person.
Joyeux Noël, the film that inspired Silent Night, will be screened in the Jerome Hynes Theatre in Wexford Opera House on the mornings of the Silent Night performances. They will be free screenings, but tickets must be booked in advance through the Box Office.
This year the annual Dr Tom Walsh Lecture will be given by Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell, composer and librettist of Silent Night. The lecture takes place the morning after the European Premiere performance of the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera.
Commenting on the upcoming Festival, Artistic Director David Agler said, "It is both exciting and daunting to offer repertoire that rarely gets an opportunity to be fully-staged. I feel privileged to be able to discover and share these rare gems with our audiences and look forward to welcoming back our patrons to rediscover the charm of Wexford festival opera. This year our three evening operas come from three different centuries - 19th, 20th, and the 21st. I hope they will be enjoyed as much as I enjoyed discovering them.”
A taster menu of one hour ShortWorks (daytime short operas): Also on offer is a ‘taster menu’ of ShortWorks, short or condensed operas lasting about an hour, which take place during the day. Tickets for these daytime performances start at just €25. A special daytime package for €55 includes a Lunchtime Recital, lunch and a ShortWorks opera performance. Timings allow audiences to travel easily to and from Wexford within a day.
These popular ShortWorks will be held at Whites of Wexford Hotel with three productions, including: a double-bill of The Wandering Scholar by Gustav Holst and Trial by Jury by Gilbert and Sullivan; Il Tabarro (The Cloak) by Giacomo Puccini; and La Cenerentola (Cinderella) by Gioacchino Rossini.
Always a great favourite, the Gala Concert is one of the highlights of the Festival, featuring a collection of favourite party pieces from members of the Festival Company.
Continuing a long-established Wexford tradition, the Lunchtime Recitals (approximately fifty minutes in length) will again be presented in St Iberius Church in the centre of Wexford town. These recitals afford a unique opportunity to hear the principal artists of the Festival in an intimate setting (details of artists and performance dates to be announced just prior to the Festival).
Una Hunt returns to Wexford with a new programme in the ‘Irish Heritage at Wexford’ series, entitled Irish Fantasy: a family affair. This is a celebration of the music of Ireland through songs and violin and piano music performed by members of a remarkable musical family: sisters Una Hunt (piano) and Fionnuala Hunt (violin) with Una’s daughter Rachel Kelly (mezzo-soprano). Rachel is a member of the young artist programme at the Royal Opera House and recently stepped into the role of Mercédès in Carmen. The programme includes music by Harty, Stanford, Esposito, Hughes, Moore, Wallace, Balfe and T.C. Kelly – who was Rachel’s grandfather and a native of Wexford.
The Fringe Festival: Wexford Town also hosts a vibrant Fringe Festival to coincide with the Opera Festival which includes art exhibitions, drama and musical performances, historical tours, and of course the Singing and Swinging Pubs competition. Full details: www.wexfordfringe.ie
The 63rd Wexford Festival Opera is grant-aided by the Arts Council, Fáilte Ireland, Wexford County Council and Wexford Borough Council.