Programme and casting details announced for 69th Wexford Festival Opera

Ahead of the opening of priority booking for the 69th Wexford Festival Opera, newly appointed Artistic Director Rosetta Cucchi has revealed further details of her inaugural artistic programme including the casting for the three main evening operas, which comprises inspiring operatic talent from16 countries from across the globe, including Ireland, most of whom will make their Wexford Festival Opera debuts.

This year the festival is inspired by William Shakespeare. Each of the three main evening productions in the National Opera House will be based directly, or indirectly, on the life and work of this great poet and playwright. Three day-time operas entitled, Pocket Operas / Opera Beag, will continue this Shakespearean thread, with new productions on the themes of love, fun, and the darker side.

This year’s expanded Festival includes more than 70 performances over 13 continuous days including:

3 main stage operas

  • A new series of daytime Pocket Operas / Opera Beag, performed in both the O’Reilly Theatre and Jerome Hynes Theatre in the National Opera House. as well as the Wexford Arts Centre.
  • A special evening concert in the O’Reilly Theatre, National Opera House with the Wexford Festival Opera Orchestra and starring internationally renowned American soprano, Lisette Oropesa.
  • Rossini's Petite messe solennelle in Rowe Street Church.
  • Late night Cabaret des Artistes performances.
  • W F O 2.0 (W- F-O- 2- point- zero): A series of free pop-up, multi-disciplinary performances, featuring music, drama, singing and dance which will be performed in non-traditional settings in various locations around Wexford town. 

I want to use my wealth of personal and artistic experiences that I have gathered in Wexford over the years to bring our Festival even higher by maintaining its traditions, and also by adding new lifeblood and new creative ideas. Unlike any other opera festival, Wexford will continue to be that unique place where you can discover rare and beautiful works. At the same time, we will add many more parallel events, both in the theatre such as the Lisette Oropesa Gala concert, and WFO 2.0 – a series of ‘pop-up’ performances in spaces around the town. This programme will fill our audiences’ days and nights with art and entertainment, spreading the magic of the Festival through the town to which it belongs.” Artistic Director Rosetta Cucchi.

Three evening operas

Ein Wintermärchen (A Winter’s Tale)

by Karl Goldmark

An opera in three acts. Sung in German.

Performance Dates: 20, 23, 26, 29 October 2020

O'Reilly Theatre, The National Opera House

Some Shakespeare plays have been set as operas several dozens of times, others hardly at all. A Winter’s Tale features somewhere in the middle popularity-wise, without having inspired any of the most famous Shakespearean operas, which makes Karl Goldmark’s Ein Wintermärchen all the more intriguing.

Born Károly Goldmark, the son of a Jewish cantor, the composer was born in Hungary but grew up in today’s Austria.  Still commonly identified as a Hungarian composer, he never learned to speak Hungarian and allied himself most closely of all with German culture. Described by contemporaries as modest and shy, Goldmark did little to promote himself, and his work and his music suffered the twin fates of falling out of fashion soon after his death and then being branded as ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis. From the 1950’s onwards his name was kept alive principally through his Violin Concerto No. 1, recorded by many great names, and his music is now enjoying something of a wider reappraisal. First premiered at the Hofoper in Vienna in 1908, Ein Wintermärchen would prove to be the last of the six operas composed by Goldmark (1830–1915).


Leontes                                   Sergy Radchenko

Hermione                                Sophie Gordeladze

Perdita                                     Deanna Breiwick

Poliienes                                  Simon Thorpe

Florizel                                     Julian Hubbard

Camillo                                    Rory Musgrave

Antigonus                                Lancelot Nomura

Paulina                                    Zlata Khersberg

Creative Team

Conductor                               Marcus Bosch                        

Director                                   Dmitry Bertman                                 

Set & Costume Designer        Astrid Janson                         

Lighting Designer                    D.M. Wood


Le Songe d’une nuit d’été

by Ambroise Thomas

An opéra comique in three acts. Sung in French.

Performance Dates: 21, 24, 27 October and 1 November 2020

O'Reilly Theatre, The National Opera House

Le Songe d’une nuit d’été is an opéra-comique, with spoken dialogue. Despite its title, anyone expecting to see Oberon and Titania will be in for a surprise: Le Songe d’une nuit d’été has nothing to do with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; it is a fantasy about Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I. The librettists portray the playwright-poet sinking gradually into drunkenness and debauchery until Elizabeth is forced to remind him of his duty as England’s literary genius. The third leading character is Sir John Falstaff, governor of ‘Richemont’, where the action is set.

Best remembered for his operas Mignon and Hamlet, Ambroise Thomas (1811–96) wrote around 20 works for the lyric stage, mostly forgotten – though audiences may recall Wexford’s production of his opera, La Cour de Célimène (2011). Premiered in Paris at the Opéra-Comique in 1850, about halfway through Thomas’ career, Le Songe d’une nuit d’été was a considerable success, and it is not hard to see why it remained popular until at least the end of the nineteenth century when The Musical Times was still describing it as ‘a little masterpiece’. Now an absolute rarity, it was however revived in Compiègne in 1994 in celebration of the opening of the Channel Tunnel.


Queen Elizabeth 1                  Hasmik Torosyan

Olivia                                       Valentina Mastrangelo

Shakespeare                           Sébastien Guèze

Falstaff                                    Tommaso Barea

Lord Latimer                            Vasyl Solodkyy

Jeremy                                    Sheldon Baxter

Nelly                                        Poala Leoci

Creative Team

Conductor                               Guillaume Tourniaire             

Director                                   Walter Le Moli                        

Set Designer                           Tiziano Santi                          

Costume Designer                  Gabriele Mayer                                  

Lighting Designer                    D.M. Wood     



by Alfredo Catalani

An opera in three acts. Sung in Italian.

Performance Dates: 22, 25, 28, 31 October 2020

The character of Edmea is reminiscent of the tragic Ophelia and thus fits well into the Shakespearean theme of the Festival.  The opera by Alfredo Catalani tells of a young woman, Edmea, driven mad by love having been forced by her adoptive father, a Count, to marry against her will when she was in love with Oberto, son of her aristocratic guardian. Often noted for his dramatic, atmospheric music, Edmea’s mad scene is considered one of the most successful parts of his opera.

Edmea enjoyed some success at its premiere at La Scala in 1886. When it was repeated later the same year in a revised version in Turin, the conductor was the 20-year-old Arturo Toscanini. This marked the start of a friendship between the composer and conductor, who even named his daughter after the heroine of Catalani’s next and final opera, La Wally, and who continued to champion his music after the composer’s tragically early death. Although Edmea was quickly overshadowed by the popularity of La Wally, Catalani’s skills as an orchestrator were considerable – make it an opera well worth rediscovering.


Edmea                                    Anne Sophie Duprels

Il Conte di Leitmeritz               Ivan Shcerbatykh

Oberto                                     Raffaele Abete

Il Barone di Waldek                 John Molloy

Ulmo                                       Leon Kim

Fritz                                         Conor Prendiville         

Creative Team

Conductor                               Francesco Cilluffo – Principal Guest Conductor

Stage Director                         Julia Burbach

Set & Costume Designer        Cécile Trémolieres

Movement Director                 Johannes Stepanek

Lighting Designer                    DM Wood


Three Pocket Operas / Opera Beag

This series of daytime operas, under the title of Pocket Operas /Opera Beag, will be performed in different venues in Wexford town, including the O’Reilly and Jerome Hynes theatres in the National Opera House, as well as Wexford Arts Centre.

Continuing the Shakespearean theme these productions will be an important showcase for young Irish and international Festival artists. The Pocket Opera / Opera Beag production of Falstaff will be performed by the members of the Wexford Factory and will also feature the SinfoNua Orchestra of young Irish-based musicians tutored by members of the Wexford Festival Orchestra.


Shakespeare in Love

Performance Dates: 20, 21, 23, 24, 27, 30 Oct - 3.30 p.m. and 26, 29 Oct

Time: 11a.m.

Wexford Arts Centre

Director: Lyaysan Safargulova

Dramaturg: Jessica Traynor  

Set & Costume Designer: Luca dal Bosco

A collage of the most famous love scenes, arias, duets and quartets from operas related to Shakespeare.


The Dark Side of Shakespeare

Performance Dates: 21, 24, 27 Oct - 11 a.m. and 22, 25, 28, 29, 31 Oct

Time: 3.30 p.m.

Jerome Hynes Theatre, The National Opera House

Director: Wayne Jordan

Set & Costume Designer: Luca dal Bosco

A collage of the darker, more obscure and mysterious Shakespearean characters in opera from Otello to Macbeth.


Shakespeare for Fun- Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi

Performance Dates: 22, 25, 28, 31 October

Time: 11 a.m.

O'Reilly Theatre, The National Opera House

Director: Roberto Recchia

Set & Costume Designer: Serena Treppiedi

A reduced production of Falstaff by Verdi with singers from the Wexford Factory and SinfoNua orchestra.


The Wexford Factory

The Wexford Factory, a new academy for young Irish or Irish-based singers, will take place in early September, prior to the beginning of rehearsals for the Festival.  The brain-child of Artistic Director, Rosetta Cucchi, the Wexford Factory is designed to mentor young Irish or Irish-based singers through intensive masterclasses led by internationally recognised artists and professionals. Guest tutors will include world-renowned tenor Juan Diego-Flórez, Irish soprano Celine Byrne, as well as Ernesto Palacio of the Rossini Opera Festival and Dmitry Vdovin, head of the Bolshoi’s Young Artist programme. In addition, graduating students will perform in the Pocket Operas / Opera Beag reduced production of Verdi’s Falstaff (Shakespeare for Fun).

The Wexford Factory is in collaboration with TUD (Technological University Dublin), RIAM (Royal Irish Academy of Music) and CSM (Cork School of Music) and in keeping with the International profile and reach of Wexford Festival Opera, a partnership with the Bolshoi Academy, Moscow, the Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro, and Opera for Peace has also been established.

Lunchtime Recitals

The very popular Lunchtime Recitals provide an insight into the artistic personality of some of the principal singers of the Festival and are a way to engage with them in an informal setting.  Performed in the beautiful and acoustically excellent eighteenth-century church of St. Iberius in the centre of Wexford town in Ireland’s Ancient East, audiences can appreciate the musical versatility of solo singers who perform a wide variety of music from across the repertoire, including operatic arias, lieder, oratorio, concert and popular songs.

The artists and their performance dates will be announced in due course but it has been confirmed that prominent Irish soprano Celine Byrne will perform in the final lunchtime recital on Saturday, 31 October.  St. Iberius Church - 1.05 p.m. on 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 31 October. 

Lisette Oropesa in Concert

This special concert starring the American lyric coloratura soprano Lisette Oropesa, accompanied by the Wexford Festival Orchestra, will be performed on Friday, 30 October at 8 p.m. in the O’Reilly Theatre of the National Opera House. Lisette Oropesa is one of the most in-demand lyric coloraturas today, who has triumphed in various roles in the most important houses throughout Europe and the US. Known for her liquid legato and seamless technique, stylistic integrity, precise coloratura, and superlative acting, Lisette excels in the repertoire of the bel canto, Mozart, and French composers.

Petite messe solennelle

Rossini’s final composition before his death, and one of the most delightful examples of a solemn mass, will be performed in Rowe Street Church on the closing afternoon of the Festival, Sunday, 1 November at 3.30 p.m.  The magnificent piece will be performed with two pianos, harmonium, four soloists and chorus. 

Gala Concert

The Gala Concert on Monday, 26 October at 9 p.m. is one of the Festival highlights and features a collection of favourite party pieces from members of the artistic company. All performers generously donate their time and talent for the Gala Concert, and all proceeds go toward supporting Wexford Festival Opera. Early booking is advised. 

Cabaret des Artistes – Late Night Cabarets

A new late-night performance series performed in true cabaret-style featuring music, recitation, dance and drama by an ensemble of the Festival’s singers, actors and dancers, exploring French, German, English and American cabaret.  There will be four performances held in the top floor café/bar in the National Opera House at 11.15 p.m. on 23, 26, 29, and 31 October.

Artist-in-Residence / Opera at Green Acres

Irish composer and conductor Andrew Synnott is not only the incoming Chorus Master for Wexford Festival Opera, but is also the Festival’s first Artist-in-Residence. As Artist-in-Residence, Andrew is composing a short opera entitled, The 47th Saturday, based on a short story of the same name by William Trevor in an adaptation by Vivienne Howard.  This new work will have two performances on 21 and 29 October at 11 a.m. in the intimate setting of the Green Acres Gallery.


A new chapter for Wexford Festival Opera, WFO 2.O includes pop-up events throughout the town. The pop-up events are a series of free, multidisciplinary performances featuring music, drama, singing and dance, performed in non-traditional settings around Wexford town. This exciting new initiative is designed to make the Festival ever more accessible for existing, new and diverse audiences. A map indicating the location of these free performances will be created to lead the public to venues where these artistic spectacles will take place, adding a ‘Treasure Hunt’ element to the experience. There will be two to three events daily throughout the entire Festival but details will not be announced in advance.

With the new, expanded artistic programme, demand for 2020 tickets for the 69th Festival is expected to be at an all-time high at the commencement of the booking period, set to open in just a little over two weeks’ time. 

Priority booking for the 69th Wexford Festival Opera opens on Saturday, 21 March for Bravura, Aria, Cabaletta and Ensemble+ Friends. 

Priority booking for Ensemble Friends opens on Saturday, 28 March, while booking opens to the general public on Saturday, 4 April.

To avail of priority booking and ensure best choice of dates and seats, become a Friend and avail of the numerous membership benefits. Join online today at

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

For more see   @wexfordfestivalopera / @wexfordopera