Details of the programme for Wexford Festival Opera 2019 announced

Artistic Director of Wexford Festival Opera, David Agler has today announced details of this year’s Festival.  There is a distinctly Irish flavour to the programme featuring not just one, but two Irish composers on the O’Reilly Theatre stage of the National Opera House including the world-premiere of a newly-commissioned opera by Irish composer Andrew Synnott, La cucina, and a concert version of The Veiled Prophet by the Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford, to be conducted by David Brophy, presented in association with Heritage Music Productions, headed by international pianist and Irish music specialist Una Hunt, and supported by a grant from The Arts Council.  La cucina will be presented as a companion piece to one of Gioachino Rossini’s lesser known operas Adina. This year’s programme will also feature the first Baroque opera to be performed at WFO in over 30 years, Dorilla in Tempe by Antonio Vivaldi.  The Festival will continue its long association with Massenet, presenting its 10th opera production by the French composer, Don Quichotte.

Once again audiences are encouraged to experience a taste of Wexford with the daytime ShortWork productions, which this year will feature Le Docteur Miracle (Doctor Miracle) by Georges Bizet, Cendrillon (Cinderella) by Pauline Viardot and L’inganno felice by Gioachino Rossini.

The annual Dr Tom Walsh Lecture this year will be an ‘in conversation’ with two women closely connected to the Festival’s past, present, and future. Elaine Padmore (Artistic Director 1982–1994) and Artistic Director designate Rosetta Cucchi.

The 68th Wexford Festival Opera will open on Tuesday, 22 October and run for 13 consecutive days, closing on Sunday, 3 November. 

Priority booking for Friends of Wexford Festival Opera (Ensemble+, Aria, Cabaletta and Bravura Friends) opens on Saturday, 23 March, for all other Friends of the Festival on Saturday, 30 March, and general booking opens on Saturday 13 April at 9:30 a.m.

As announced earlier this year, the three main evening operas will be :

Don Quichotte by Jules Massenet

Sung in French with English surtitles
22, 25, 29 Oct, 1 Nov

To date the Festival has presented nine Massenet operas, making a significant contribution to the revival of interest in this remarkable French composer. Massenet labelled it a comédie-héroïque, as the book had gone through a number of transformations, the end result being not quite the same as Cervantes's original. Premiering in Monte Carlo in 1910, it proved to be a huge success and the opera was soon seen in Paris, London, New York and many other European and American capitals.  Two years later Massenet died and the First World War soon followed.  By the time normality was restored, Massenet was part of the old romantic past and no longer in favour.  A few productions have been produced in Europe since then and despite the 1965 production in Wexford, which ignited a renewed interest in this composer’s works worldwide, this opera has still only been staged occasionally.  Nominee in the ‘Best Director’ category at the International Opera Awards 2019, director Rodula Gaitanou (Vanessa - 2016, L’oracolo / Mala vita - 2018) will join forces once again with conductor Timothy Myers (Vanessa 2016, Margherita 2017) for this production.

Dorilla in Tempe by Antonio Vivaldi 

Sung in Italian with English surtitles
23, 26, 30 Oct, 2 Nov

Famous for being one of the most productive composers in music history, Antonio Vivaldi wrote over 50 operas, though is he is probably best remembered for his orchestral works. However Dorilla in Tempe was reputedly one of Vivaldi’s own favourite compositions and in the score, notably the opening chorus, there includes a reworking of part of the ‘Spring’ movement from his celebrated The Four Seasons, which was published just shortly before the premiere of this opera in 1726. It tells the story of the obstacles faced to the blissful union of Dorilla (a princess) and Elmiro (a shepherd), whose rival Nomio turns out to be the disguised god Apollo.

Dorilla in Tempe by Antonio Vivaldi will mark the return of director Fabio Ceresa (‘Best Director’ International Opera Awards 2016) and costume designer Giuseppe Palella, the key creative team behind the critically acclaimed operas Guglielmo Ratcliff (2015) and Maria de Rudenz (2016).  Presented in association with Teatro La Fenice (Venice).

La cucina (The kitchen) by Irish composer Andrew Synnott

The world-premiere of a newly commissioned opera, performed as a companion piece with

Adina by Gioachino Rossini, a co-production with Rossini Opera Festival

Both sung in Italian with English surtitles
24, 27, 31 Oct, 3 Nov

Adina is one of Rossini’s lesser-known works.  The opera was composed in 1818 in the aftermath of his greatest creative period, which could be why it has often been overlooked. The plot is a variation on the classic ‘escape from the harem’ story so popular among opera composers of the time. All is well in the end however, when it is discovered that the beautiful slave girl Adina is indeed the caliph’s daughter. This one-act farsa will be prefaced with the world-premiere of La cucina (The kitchen), with a libretto by the director and Wexford’s Artistic Director designate, Rosetta Cucchi. The opera itself is composed by the Dublin-based composer, Andrew Synnott, who is no stranger to the operatic stage.  His first opera, Breakdown, was followed by a pair of short operas, Counterparts and The Boarding House, based on two short stories from James Joyce’s Dubliners, which received its world-premiere in Wexford in 2017.

The Veiled Prophet by Charles Villiers Stanford

28 Oct (concert performance)

Sung in English with English surtitles

Presented in association with Heritage Music Productions, headed by international pianist and Irish music specialist, Una Hunt, this eagerly anticipated project, supported by a major grant from the Arts Council of Ireland, will be conducted by David Brophy and includes several distinguished Irish singers in a one-night only, concert performance on bank holiday Monday, 28 October at 5 p.m.

Very few professional performances have been given of Charles Villiers Stanford’s operas in the last century, and many other parts of his musical outlook remain neglected. Mostly remembered these days for his late-Victorian church music, the Anglo-Irish composer enjoyed a full and varied career. Indeed, there is much more to the Dublin-born Stanford (1852–1924) than most modern listeners realise, and in particular, his symphonies, concertos and Irish Rhapsodies are a joy to discover. Stanford was also a prolific opera composer, but recognising the hopelessness of pursuing an operatic career at home, he turned to Germany and it was in Hanover that the first of his ten operas, The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, was premiered in 1881.

ShortWork (daytime short operas) – Clayton Whites Hotel

The ShortWork operas have become a main feature of the daytime programme, progressing from the ‘opera scenes’ which were introduced in the 80s by the then artistic director Elaine Padmore.  Intimately staged with piano accompaniment and lasting approximately 90 minutes, the ShortWork operas are presented in the nearby Clayton Whites Hotel and offer audiences the opportunity to enjoy a one-act opera performed by cast members of the evening operas.

The three daytime ShortWork operas are:

Le Docteur Miracle (Doctor Miracle) by Georges Bizet

23, 26, 31 Oct – 3.30 p.m.

Bizet was just 18 when he composed the comic operette, Le Docteur Miracle, for a competition organised by Jaques Offenbach. Based on a libretto by Léon Battu and Ludovic Halévy which was a French adaptation of a play St Patrick's Day, by Irish playwright Richard Sheridan, the opera revolves around a young man’s attempts to win the hand of the mayor's daughter. This charming and lively opera contains echoes of Rossini and gives a foretaste of Bizet's most famous opera Carmen.

Cendrillon (Cinderella) by Pauline Viardot

24, 29 Oct and 1 Nov – 3.30 p.m.

This particular take on the ‘Cinderella’ story may not be performed as often as the other operatic adaptations by Massenet, Rossini and Isouard, but the plot remains relatively faithful to Perrault's original fairy tale, albeit in a more light-hearted style. The evil stepmother is replaced with a clumsy, bumbling stepfather and the Fairy Godmother attends the party and entertains the guests.

L’inganno felice by Gioachino Rossini

25, 30 Oct and 2 Nov – 3.30 p.m.

Rossini was only 19 when this opera premiered in Venice and yet it was already his fourth opera. L’inganno felice (The Fortunate Deception) belongs to the comic-serious genre and centres around the rescue of a wronged, innocent heroine. It was probably the most rewarding of Rossini’s early works judging from its popularity with the public at its premiere in 1812.

Lunchtime Recitals – St Iberius Church

23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 31 Oct and 1, 2 Nov – 1.05 p.m.

The 50-minute Lunchtime Recitals are an integral part of the daytime programme and offer a unique opportunity to hear the principal artists of the Festival perform their favourite repertoire in the intimate and informal setting of the beautiful 18th-century St Iberius Church in the heart of Wexford town, part of Ireland’s Ancient East. One of the delights of attending a Lunchtime Recital is that the programme is not advertised beforehand. The artists and their performance dates will be announced in October.

Daytime packages

A limited number of special daytime packages are available and allows audiences to travel easily to and from Wexford by car, bus or rail within a day. The special, limited package includes two Festival favourites, a Lunchtime Recital in St Iberius Church and a ShortWork opera in the afternoon in Clayton Whites Hotel as well as lunch in Clayton Whites Hotel between the two performances, all within easy walking distance of each other.  Tickets for the daytime package are €65.  This is the perfect introduction to Wexford Festival Opera which can be comfortably enjoyed over a few hours without staying overnight. All bookings (group and individual) must be made through the Box Office at the National Opera House.

Gala Concert – National Opera House

27 Oct – 8.30 p.m.

The Gala Concert will be performed on Sunday 27 October and remains one of the highlights year on year, featuring a collection of favourite party pieces from members of the Festival Company. All performers generously donate their time and talent and all proceeds go toward supporting Wexford Festival Opera.

Dr Tom Walsh Lecture – Clayton Whites Hotel

1 Nov – 11 a.m.

The 2019 Lecture will be presented by two women closely connected to the Festival’s past, present, and future. Elaine Padmore (artistic director 1982–1994) will engage in conversation with Artistic Director designate Rosetta Cucchi. After her tenure at Wexford ended in 1994, Elaine went on to a further distinguished career as Director of The Royal Danish Opera and The Royal Opera, Covent Garden.

Rosetta Cucchi is, of course, no stranger to the Wexford public. Her association with Wexford Festival Opera began in 1995 where she initially acted as a répétiteur. Rosetta made her WFO directorial debut in 2003 with the Opera Scenes and her mainstage directorial debut in 2004 with Braunfels’ Prinzessin Brambila.  She has since directed three other main evening operas at Wexford, most recently Alfano’s Risurrezione in 2017 and will direct Adina by Rossini (a co-production with the Rossini Opera Festival) and La cucina by Andrew Synnott as part of this year’s Festival. Since 2005 she has been the associate of David Agler.  From 2020 she will become the eighth Artistic Director of Wexford Festival Opera.  Attendees are invited to join Rosetta and Elaine for a cup of tea /coffee immediately following the lecture.  Dr Tom Walsh lecture is kindly sponsored by Victoria Walsh Hamer, daughter of the Festival’s Founder, Dr Tom Walsh.

National Opera House Tours

During the 2018 Festival there will be guided tours of the National Opera House. Take advantage of this opportunity to find out more about the award-winning architecture of the National Opera House and sample the exceptional acoustics of its two diverse performance spaces, the O’Reilly Theatre and the Jerome Hynes Theatre. Tours commence at 9.30 a.m. from the Box Office, National Opera House.

Historical Tours - Courtesy of Wexford Historical Society

The Wexford Festival Opera Historical Tours, affiliated with the Festival since the 1950s, come courtesy of Wexford Historical Society who programme and run these much loved personalised tours of the Wexford town and county. Led by expert guides, these free events explore places of historical interest throughout County Wexford, part of Ireland’s Ancient East, some well-known; some lesser known. The tours leave the Talbot Hotel car park at 10.30 a.m. sharp and return to Wexford by 1 p.m., just in time for the Lunchtime Recitals. Full details of these tours are announced each year in September. No booking necessary. For more information visit www.wexfordhistoricalsociety.com

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, and of course the legendary Singing and Swinging Pubs competition.  The Fringe Festival is coordinated by the Wexford Chamber of Commerce. Full details: www.wexfordfringe.ie

Wexford Festival Opera is supported by grants from the Arts Council, Wexford County Council and Fáilte Ireland/Ireland’s Ancient East.

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Photo courtesy of Amati-Bacciardi/Rossini Opera Festival