My memories are of 1965–a magical year and known as ‘The Year of the Three Eberts’! First, Don Quichotte by Massenet directed by the great Carl Ebert. Second, La Finta Giardiniera by Mozart, directed by Carl’s son Peter and designed by Peter’s daughter/Carl’s granddaughter Judith Ebert. And finally, in the same year, La Traviata by Verdi, also directed by Peter Ebert.
My father, the late Dr Tom Walsh, Wexford Festival Opera’s Founder, was so very proud that the great Carl Ebert honoured Wexford by agreeing to come and direct Don Quichotte. Don Quichotte was an opera which Carl Ebert had never before directed, and one which he had always wanted to do.
Don Quichotte’s horse was allowed outside the Theatre Royal for a bringing together of the three Eberts, Carl, Peter and Judith, and my father–a very happy photograph.
Don Quichotte was designed by Reginald Woolley–a Wexford stalwart who also that year designed La Traviata. Some of us went on an outing to the seaside, maybe to Kilmore, and had fun on the beach looking into rock pools. I have a page in my autograph book which reads “We shall paddle again–Reggie”.
La Finta Giardiniera was put on for only three performances. Those who saw it still remember it as outstanding. I was about 12 years old at the time. It was a jewel. It was charming. I loved it. For me, Ugo Benelli, ‘tenore di grazia’, with whom I am still in touch, was an added plus of La Finta Giardiniera as Il Conte Belfiore.
La Finta Giardiniera had a marvellous cast: Mattiwilda Dobbs, Federico Davià (who I was able to re-meet when he was singing and I was working at Glyndebourne), Francis Egerton (ditto), Maddalena Bonifaccio, Birgit Nordin, and Stefania Malagù as well as Ugo. It was conducted by Gunnar Staern.
I still recall vividly the great excitement surrounding this spectacular year.