Félicien David

For all the exoticism in Lalla Roukh, there’s some local interest here: Félicien David’s opera is based on one of the most famous works of Thomas Moore, the celebrated Irish poet (and musician) who died 170 years ago this year.

The Opera

Opéra-comique in two acts

Libretto by Michel Carré and Hyppolyte Lucas
(after Thomas Moore’s poem Lalla Rookh)
Newly commissioned adaptation by Timothy Knapman

Sung in French with English surtitles

First performance: Opéra-Comique, Paris, 1862

Born in Dublin to a mother who came from Wexford, Moore enjoyed immediate success with his Irish Melodies — the source of such famous songs as The Minstrel Boy and The Last Rose of Summer — and his ‘Oriental romance’ Lalla Rookh increased that fame. Tapping into Romantic sensibilities and capitalising on the popularity of The Thousand and One Nights, it inspired several operas by composers as diverse as Gaspare Spontini and Anton Rubinstein, not to mention Charles Villiers Stanford’s first opera The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, heard at Wexford in 2019. Further indicating its wide appeal to composers, there is also Schumann’s great choral-orchestral work Paradies und die Peri.

Even in this company, David’s work stands out for its delicate evocation of Kashmir and Samarkand. It has been praised for its ‘dreamy atmosphere and aromatic orchestration’. The hard-to-please Héctor Berlioz was quick to admire Lalla Roukh and it was almost instantly recognised as the composer’s masterpiece.

Wexford audiences will know David from his somewhat heavier Herculanum, staged at the festival in 2016 and dating from four years before Lalla Roukh. He enjoyed an unusual career, beginning with his apprenticeship as a young boy in the cathedral choir at Aix-en-Provence. Most of his creative work was done in Paris, but when it came to musical exoticism he knew what he was talking — or, rather, writing — about. Having joined the radical religious sect of the Saint-Simonians, when it was disbanded by the government he travelled with a group of friends preaching its gospel in the Ottoman lands and going as far as Egypt. His remarkable ode-symphonie Le Désert was an early musical manifestation of this, but Lalla Roukh is a more mature example of his talent for evoking the picturesque.

The Plot

The beautiful young princess, Lalla-Roukh, is promised in marriage to the king of a far-off land, whom she has never met. She sets out with her guards and confidants to meet and marry the king at his summer palace, but Lalla-Roukh has a secret. She has already been serenaded by a mysterious young singer, Noureddin, and has fallen in love with him. When she meets him again, en route to meet the king, she must make a choice. What will Lalla-Roukh follow – her duty or her heart? When the moment of decision comes – and Lalla declares that she would rather live in a simple cottage with Noureddin than in a palace with the king – the young singer reveals that he too has a secret. The surprise he springs on Lalla takes her entirely unawares while also granting them both the happiest of happy endings.

Discover the Repertoire

by Felician David

Listen to the introduction

Creative Team

Steven White

Steven is one of North America’s premiere operatic and symphonic conductors. He made his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut in 2010, with La traviata starring Angela Gheorghiu. Since then, he has conducted a number of Metropolitan Opera performances of La traviata, with stars including Natalie Dessay, Hei-Kyung Hong, Plácido Domingo, Thomas Hampson, Dmitri Hvorostovksy

Orpha Phelan

Orpha has directed La Cenerentola at INO, A Quiet Place at Opera Zuid Netherlands, Powder Her Face and Dead Man Walking at Royal Danish Opera, Billy Budd and I Capuleti e i Montecchi
at Opera North/Opera Australia, Fidelio at Longborough, Jenůfa, Hoffmann, Fiddler on the Roof and La Bohème at Malmö Opera, Dialogues des Carmelites at RNCM, and Così Fan Tutte at OTC.

Set & Costume Designer
Madeleine Boyd

Madeleine studied Theatre Design at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, she was awarded the 2008 Design Fellowship
from Independent Opera. Her designs include: A Little Night Music (Leeds Playhouse & Opera North); La traviata (Komische Oper, Berlin); Carmen (Nikikai Opera, Tokyo); A Quiet Place (Opera Zuid, Maastricht) which won the Place de L’Opera Award for Best Opera 2018.

Lighting Designer
D.M. Wood

D.M. is a Canadian working internationally as a lighting designer
for opera and theatre. She has been a Wexford regular in the
past years and her acclaimed lighting designs include last year's Catalani's Edmea and Thomas' Le Songe d'une nuit d'été. Ms Wood received the UK's 2012 Knight of Illumination Opera Award for her design of Suor Angelica (Royal Opera House).

Amy Share-Kissiov

She trained at the Victorian College of the Arts and the Australian Ballet School. After 20 years as a soloist in various companies in Australia, Europe and North America, she began her second artistic life as a choreographer and director. She has worked with directors such as Yoshida Oida at Opera Lyon, Denis Krief at 73rd Opera Season at Ente Luglio Musicale in Italy.

Timothy Knapman

Timothy Knapman studied history at Oxford. Since then, he has spent his time writing plays, musicals, songs, operas and children’s books. He has written over 60 books, including the best-selling Dinosaurs in the Supermarket and its sequels, Mungo and the Picture Book Pirates and its sequels, Time Now To Dream, Soon, Sir Dancealot, Dinosaurs Don’t Have Bedtimes and Superhero Dad.

Assistant Stage Director
Sarah Baxter

A member of Irish National Opera’s ABL Aviation Opera Studio from 2018 to 2020, in 2020 Sarah directed Hannah Peel’s Close as part of INO’s much-praised 20 Shots of Opera project. Her work has toured throughout Ireland, the UK and internationally. Sarah was the recipient of Druid Theatre’s Marie Mullen Bursary 2020–2021 and she is an Associate Artist with Once Off Productions.


Associate Lighting Designer
Daisy Long

Daisy is a lighting designer for theatre, opera, concert and dance. Originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts, she now lives in New York City. Her credits include: The Shed, Keen Company, BAM, Atlantic, The Barrow Group Primary Stages, LaMaMa, NYU.


Gabrielle Philiponet

Born in Albi, France, she was a flutist and cellist before studying
the voice with Daniel Ottevaere. As a member of the Chapelle Musicale Reine Elisabeth in Brussels, she was a prize winner at the prestigious Reine Elisabeth Competition. Often acclaimed as one of the finest French lyric sopranos of the moment, her wide-ranging repertoire spans from Mozart to contemporary music.

Pablo Bemsch

Pablo is a former member of the International Opera Studio at Opernhaus Zürich and of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House. In 2023 he will be the tenor soloist for
a recording of Handel’s Messiah with the L’Orchestre de l’Opéra Royal - Versailles.

Ben McAteer

Ben trained at the National Opera Studio, London and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama opera course. Before embarking on a musical career, he studied Chemistry at the University of St Andrews. Notable operatic roles include Falke/Die Fledermaus; Goryanchikov/From the House of the Dead, Marcello/La bohème, Count Almaviva/Le nozze di Figaro.

Emyr Wyn Jones

Welsh bass-baritone Emyr Wyn trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama before furthering his training as a Young Artist at the National Opera Studio. His past engagements include Masetto/Don Giovanni (Scottish Opera); Colline/La bohème (Opera North); Leporello/Don Giovanni (Longborough Festival Opera).

Thomas D Hopkinson

Thomas is an Associate Young Artist at the National Opera Studio and is a Sybil Tutton award winner supported by Help Musicians. He has performed several times at WFO, including The Caliph/The Veiled Prophet, Batone/L'inganno felice and Monterone/Rigoletto. He will be making his debut as Sciarrone/Tosca at the Royal Opera House later this year.

Niamh O’Sullivan

Niamh studied at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin under Veronica Dunne. She followed her studies by joining the Opera Studio at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich from 2016-18. In 2021 she made her WFO debut as Paulina/Ein Wintermärchen, also appearing at the festival in a Lunchtime Recital and in the Gala Concert.

Lorcan Cranitch

Dublin born, Lorcan is an Irish actor, he became involved in drama as a student and in 1980 he moved to London where he trained
at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. His first major role on British television was as Tim Healy in Parnell and the Englishwoman. He then combined TV with stage work at The Royal National Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company, The Abbey and The Gate Theatre.

Luisa Baldinetti, Sara Catellani, Andrea Di Matteo, Francesco Gerbi, Nicola Marrapodi, Giada Negroni, Andrea Carlotta Pelaia, Alessandro Sollima