Wexford Opera House recognised as Ireland’s National Opera House

Wexford Opera House has been officially recognised as Ireland’s National Opera House by the Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Minister Heather Humphreys made the historic announcement at the official opening of the 63rd Wexford Festival Opera.  The Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys announced the renaming of the internationally award-winning Wexford Opera House as Ireland’s National Opera House in front of an estimated 18,000 people who lined the quay-front of Wexford at the official opening of the 63rd Wexford Festival Opera. 

Before attending the Festival’s gala premiere performance as the guest of honour, Minister Humphreys took centre stage in the now officially recognised National Opera House and addressed the opening night capacity audience to confirm this major development, saying, “I am honoured to have been asked to open the Wexford Festival Opera, the centerpiece of Wexford’s cultural calendar. And I am delighted to be able to give my full support tonight to the renaming of Wexford Opera House as The National Opera House. I have asked my officials to work with Wexford and the Arts Council to put this into effect, in recognition of Wexford’s position as the home of Ireland’s only custom built Opera House.

The Wexford Opera House is Ireland’s only acoustically purpose-built Opera House, and it has been a major addition to our cultural infrastructure since the state-of-the-art building was opened in 2008. The Irish people, through funding from my Department, have invested  more than €31 million in this Opera House, and I think it is fitting that it is renamed The National Opera House.”

The new title means that the National Opera House will be Ireland’s sole nationally recognised Opera House, given its unique characteristics and the very specific acoustic and design criteria which it fulfils as Ireland’s only purpose-build Opera House.  As a result, Ireland will no longer be the only country in the EU, and further afield in Europe, to no longer possess a National Opera House. The enhanced national status and state endorsement is recognition of not just the significance of this major addition to the nation’s cultural infrastructure, but also of the people of Ireland’s prior investment, via the Department of Arts, as the predominant funder of the state-of-the-art facility’s redevelopment.

Responding to the tremendous announcement, Chief Executive David McLoughlin, said, “This landmark development of official recognition of Ireland’s National Opera House will help secure a legacy in opera in Ireland for generations to come, but perhaps more importantly deservedly recognises the State’s previous significant investment in the creation of what has been internationally acclaimed as ‘the best small opera house in the world’.”

Wexford Opera House officially opened in 2008 and remains Ireland’s only custom-built Opera House, winning numerous national and international architectural awards as a result.  It is a year-round cultural receiving house for opera and also for multi-disciplinary performance art-forms, and is the home of Wexford Festival Opera, one of the leading opera Festivals in the world, each year attracting 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 talent in opera from Ireland and around the world.  Winner of many awards, including Best Rediscovered Work at this year’s International Opera Awards in London, and also nominated in three other categories including: Best Festival, alongside the New York Met, Salzburg and Glyndebourne; Best Chorus; and Best young singer (Helena Dix for her performance in ‘Cristina’).  The world-class venue, now officially recognised as Ireland’s National Opera House, is as a result better placed than ever to heighten the awareness of Irish opera production, at home and abroad, and further develop this culturally and economically important art-form for Ireland’s benefit as a result. 

This year’s Festival runs until 2 November, and features three main stage operas:  Salomé by Antoine Mariotte (1875-1944), a rarely-performed operatic version of Oscar Wilde’s play; Don Bucefalo by Antonio Cagnoni (1828-1896), a delightfully good-humoured comic opera, an opera within an opera; and the European Premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Silent Night, set against the backdrop of WWI. American Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell will attend the European premiere performance and both will also deliver this year’s Dr. Tom Walsh Lecture the morning after the premiere.

This year the Festival is offering a number of tickets for the evening operas at just €25 each. Also on offer are daytime performances including a ‘taster menu’ of ShortWorks, short or condensed operas lasting about an hour, lunchtime recitals, and a very special ‘Composer on Film’ Concert, featuring music from some of the best-known film soundtracks.  Tickets for these daytime performances start at just €15. A special daytime package for €55 includes a Lunchtime Recital, lunch and a ShortWorks opera performance and fits nicely into public transport schedules. 

The 63rd Wexford Festival Opera is grant-aided by the Arts Council, Fáilte Ireland, and Wexford County Council.