The Master

Alberto Caruso

The novelist Colm Tóibín may need no introduction, but his deep love and appreciation of opera may still catch some unaware.

The Opera

THE MASTER
Opera in one act
Libretto by Colm Tóibín

Sung in English

World Premiere
Wexford Festival Opera, 2022


There is nowhere better to make this discovery than in Wexford, since Tóibín’s family had connections with the festival from its very start, and he himself saw his first opera — Les Pêcheurs de perles, with Christiane Eda-Pierre — at Wexford as long ago as 1971. In every sense, then, The Master is something of a homecoming.

Tóibín’s own libretto for The Master is based on his fifth novel (2004), and as in the book the protagonist is the writer Henry James, caught in a conflict between his exterior and interior selves. The score, by the composer Alberto Caruso, was completed in 2016. More recently, Tóibín has collaborated with the composer Ludovico Einaudi on Winter Journey, an opera exploring the conflicts felt by those caught up in Europe’s migrant crisis and premiered in 2019 in Palermo.


The Plot

The American novelist Henry James, by now fully entrenched in English society, is seeking seclusion in the town of Rye. Humiliated by the failure of his play Guy Domville, he flees to Ireland, but even here he suffers social embarrassment. Throwing himself into work is the only solution, and returning to England he begins a ghost story based on his family and friends — his invalid sister Alice, his bubbly cousin Minnie Temple and his close friend Constance Fennimore Woolson, all now dead — a story that reveals his own guilt at having failed them. Social demands also mean that Henry is repressing his homosexuality, and although he escapes some of these confines while visiting Italy, he resolves to settle back at Rye where he is watched over by objects from his past.

Creative Team

Conductor
Alberto Caruso

Alberto is a composer, pianist and conductor. He was Assistant Composer for three years at Hans Zimmer studios L.A. He wrote scores for Madhouse, Sunday Lunch, Without Writers. His first opera, The Little Prince, was commissioned by The Tokyo Chamber Orchestra and he conducted the premiers in Tokyo and Turin. His compositions have been performed all over the world.

Director
Conor Hanratty

Conor trained at UCLA, the National Theatre and Rough Magic’s SEEDS. He directed Flatpack and HARP | A River Cantata (Dublin Fringe Festival); and the trilogy Front of House, Backstageand The Stalls (Cork Opera House), nominated for Best Opera Production at the Irish Times Theatre Awards. In 2021 he directed I Capuleti e i Montecchi by Vincenzo Bellini for WFO.

Set & Costume Designer
Lisa Krugel

Lisa graduated from The Lir's MFA in Stage Design. Recent set
and costume designs include: In Our Veins (Abbey Theatre/Bitter Like a Lemon); Grimm Tales, and Baroque Opera Double Bill (TU Dublin Conservatoire); Dalliance, I Am a Camera, Damascus and The Ugly One (The Lir). Lisa also works as a Stage Manager with Liz Roche

Lighting Designer
Paddy McLaughlin

Patrick works as a freelance Lighting Designer and Production Manager throughout Ireland. Opera lighting designs include WFO Shortworks, Nevill Holt Opera, Castleward Opera and Cork Opera. Other design work for theatre companies include: Crash Ensemble, Island Theatre Company, DubbelJoint Theatre Company, Tinderbox Theatre Company and Druid Theatre Company.

Cast

Henry James
Thomas Birch

A member of the WFO Chorus, in 2021 Thomas made his Wexford debut in Ein Wintermärchen. His recent debuts include Pinkerton/ Madama Butterfly and Macduff/Macbeth, as well as numerous concert performances throughout Europe. He will debut the role of Canio/Pagliacci in Graz.

Hammond + Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
James Wafer

James was a chorister at Lincoln during the early 2000s and whilst there, he discovered his love for singing. He then attended the Royal College of Music and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and has subsequently pursued a varied career in the UK and Europe as an opera singer, actor and recitalist. He studies with Julian Tovey and David Rendall.

Constance Fenimore Woolson
Annabella Ellis

British born Bulgarian-Turkish mezzo-soprano Annabella Vesela-Ellis is a 2021/23 season Fellow with English National Opera Chorus and made her debut as New Ofglen/The Handmaid’s Tale. This year she made her Finnish debut with Savonlinna Opera Festival. She has performed with Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Longborough Festival Opera, British Youth Opera, Dorset Opera, Devon Opera.

William James + Edmund Gosse
Lawrence Gillians

Lawrence studied at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Operatic engagements include Stárek/Jenůfa (Aylesbury Opera); Norberg/La Nonne Sanglante (Gothic Opera); Speaker, Second Armed Man/Die Zauberflöte (Hurn Court Opera); Zalzal/ L’etoile (New Sussex Opera); Bartolo/Le nozze di Figaro (Puzzlepiece Opera), multiple roles in Cavalli’s L’Egisto (Hampstead Opera).

Johnston, the butler
Andrii Kharlamov

Andrey has been an artist at the Odessa Opera House, Ukraine since 2014 and won first prize at the 2019 Antonín Dvořák International Competition in Karlovy Vary. He trained at the Odessa National Music Academy and has been a soloist with the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vodyanoy Academic Theatre of Musical Comedy, the Teplice Philharmonic and Pilsen Opera House.

Hendrik Christian Andersen
Dan D'Souza

Dan studied at the Royal Academy Opera and the Royal College of Music. Last season he covered Boatswain/HMS Pinafore (English National Opera) and sang Silvio/Pagliacci (Iford Arts Next Generation Program); and Schaunard/La bohème (Mid Wales Opera). This season he plays Flemish Deputy/Don Carlo

(Royal Opera House).

Alice James
Isabel Garcia Araújo

In 2020, Isabel finished her masters degree in Performance - Vocal Studies at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. In 2022 she won The Grange Festival Prize. Operatic roles include: Fiordiligi/Così fan tutte; Belinda/Dido and Aeneas; Obedientia/Ordo Virtutum. Isabel is supported by he Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Trust and the GDA Foundation (Portugal).

Alice Gibbens James
Anna Gregg

Recently graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Anna studied both under Sarah Pring. She has been an ‘Associate Artist’ with NI Opera this year, and ‘Musician in Residence’ at Holy Trinity Church, Dartford. Recent productions include: Semele (OCI), Der Freischütz and L’Elisir d’amore (Random Opera).

Mrs. Edward Saker
Zita Syme

Zita graduated from Royal Holloway University of London with First-Class Honours in Music, continuing studies in Florence and Berlin. She is a Britten-Pears Young Artist and won the 2017 Emmy Destinn Young Singers Award.  Since 2020, she has been in the ensemble of Opéra Grand Avignon, with roles in MireillePeter Grimes and Idomeneo. Recent roles include Mimi/La bohème, Giunone/La Calisto, Antonia/Les Contes d’Hoffmann and Fiordiligi/Così fan tutte.

Maud Howe Elliott
Emma Walsh

Emma has won numerous awards throughout her native
Ireland, including RTE’s All Ireland Talent Showcase. Her roles include: Violetta/La traviata, Mabel/The Pirates of Penzance, the Princess/Princess Ida, Musetta/La bohème and Hanna Glavari/The Merry Widow. Emma debuted the role of Elvira/Il Letto by Christopher Hogg at Grimeborn Music Festival, London.

Lady Louisa Wolseley
Arlene Belli

Arlene is a graduate of the Conservatorio S. Cecilia in Rome and winner of the first prize at the Simone Alaimo Competition. Future engagements include her debut with Wexford Festival Opera, as well as the female Pope/The Burning Question by Edward Lambert, Teresa/La sonnambula and Rosina/Il barbiere di Siviglia.

Miss Loring
Dominica Williams

Dominica performed as Cherubino/Le nozze di Figaro (Sherman Theatre, Cardiff) and as Ino and Juno/Semele. Dominica won the Janet Price Opera Prize at The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in 2021; she also received the Irish Heritage Brackaville Studies Bursary 2020/2021. She will cover the role of Octavian/Der Rosenkavalier with Irish National Opera next spring.

Mr. Webster
Gabriel Seawright

Gabriel graduated at the Royal Northern College of Music. His roles include: Henry Crawford/Mansfield Park; Schoolmaster/The Cunning Little Vixen; Tanzmeister/Ariadne auf Naxos; Basilio/Le nozze di Figaro; Premier Commissaire/Dialogues des Carmélites; Satirino/La Calisto and First Armed Man/Die Zauberflöte (Longborough Festival Opera); Giuseppe/La traviata for Northern Ireland Opera.

Mr. Smith
Stephen Walker

Stephen Walker is a tenor who recently graduated with first class honours from the TU Dublin Conservatoire under Dr. Robert Alderson. He has appeared in multiple productions and concerts in Ireland and the UK; including Blackwater Valley Opera Festival, Ireland and Yorke Trust Opera in the UK. He is also a multi-prize winner. Stephen intends to continue his studies in the UK.

Tito
Chris Mosz

Born in Oklahoma, Chris' father was born in Budapest and his mother was a soprano. While at Oklahoma City University, Chris’ roles included George Gibbs/Our Town, Ferrando/Cosi fan tutte and Le petit vieillard/L'enfant et les sortileges.

Ensemble
Deirdre Higgins

Deirdre completed a BA in Voice and Dance (University of Limerick) and is currently undertaking a Master of Music Performance in
the TU Dublin Conservatoire under the tutelage of Mairéad Buicke and Mairéad Hurley. She made her opera chorus debut in 2022 in the Irish National Opera’s production of Maria Stuarda. She regularly performs and tours with acclaimed Irish vocal group Anúna.

Ensamble
Emma Jüngling

Emma debut as soloist on the opera stage was Tituba/The Crucible by Robert Ward's (Berlin Opera Academy), thanks to the Lorna White Merit grant. She also covered the role of Cherubino/
Le nozze di Figaro. Her future engagements will include Venus/ Orpheus in the Underworld (CO2 Hall - Switzerland).