The Wexford Festival – The Early Years

An exhibition of rarely seen photographs of the early years of the Wexford Festival is on show at Wexford Town Library from 22 September to 17 October 2021.

The eighteen black and white photographs capture background scenes of the inaugural ‘The Wexford Festival’ in 1951, when Dr. Tom Walsh and his committee staged The Rose of Castile in the Georgian Theatre Royal.

Among the photographs are stage designs and preparations for the William Balfe opera, and portraits of the very first Wexford volunteers.

The exhibition, supported by Creative Ireland and curated by Tom Mooney, pays homage to the men and women who put their shoulder to the wheel in the early years of the 1950s, and helped the festival take root.

It is largely because of their vision and endeavour that Wexford is in a position to mark the seventieth anniversary of a festival which, many decades later, won the highly coveted Best Festival category at the International Opera Awards in 2016.

 After The Rose of Castile, the young Festival believed that its future lay in its ability to present little known operas, specifically Italian. In its first decade, Wexford would stage eleven works by five Italian composers: Donizetti, Bellini, Puccini, Rossini and Verdi.

The exhibition reflects the burgeoning relationship between the small Irish town and Italy in the 1950s and which continues to this day.

The exhibition will move to the National Opera House on 18 October for the 70th Wexford Opera Festival.


Photograph -Touching hands outside White’s Hotel, are Halinka de Tarczynska and Nicola Monti, members of the cast of La Sonnambula in 1954.