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New to opera?

I Capuleti hero
Falstaff Chronicles hero

Then, don’t worry. We’re united by our enjoyment of opera, not a competition of who knows more. Everyone is welcome. To assist you before attending the Festival, we’ve included some FAQs below. One of the unique aspects of Wexford Festival Opera is breathing new life into neglected operas.

Some of the works have not been staged in living memory, so it is not unusual for an opera to be new to almost all the audience. Attending a performance at Wexford Festival Opera is a memorable experience for anyone. From the beautiful singing voices of our principals, to the swelling music of a full orchestra. From the ingenuity of the sets, the design of the costumes and the plots filled with life's great themes; to the murmur of excited anticipation as the audience takes their seats and the curtain rises.

A multi-dimensional art form, opera will move you, even surprise you, and we hope begin a passion that will delight and last a lifetime. Many of our audience members come back year after year and remember everyone was a newcomer once. 

Mala vita
WFO performance
WFO performance Lalla Roukh

Frequently Asked Questions

Opera is more reasonable than you might expect:

  • Festival event prices start at €10 for this year's Community Opera
  • Lunchtime Recitals at €20
  • Pockets Operas at €25
  • Main stage evening Opera performances range from €25 to €150, depending on seat position.

Most operas are around two to three hours long, similar to the length of an average movie. There is usually one interval, and sometimes two. During the interval, you will have time to order a drink and stretch your legs.

Each opera's running time is usually displayed on the programme page for each opera, or contact the Box Office for further information.

Most operas are performed in their original language, but all main stage operas are surtitled. This means a translation of what is being sung will appear on screens above and to the side of the stage. As singing can be more elaborate, taking longer to express than the spoken word, your eyes will quickly move between stage and screen, so you will not miss any of the action.

The language in which every opera is performed can be found on the relevant programme page for each opera.

When you make a booking, you can choose where you want to sit based on your preference and the level of seating you want. We also have specific areas for people with accessibility requirements, and these areas have good views. If you need to book accessible seating please contact the Box Office.

Usually, the audience will applaud before the start as the conductor takes their place on the podium in the orchestra pit. Applause often happens at the end of an act or after a particularly impressive solo or duet. If you are unsure when to clap, wait for others around you.

Opera singers do not use microphones. Their voices are trained to project, over a full orchestra, to the audience, even if you are seated at the back of the upper circle. The live orchestra can have up to 70 musicians in the pit, providing music that layers and colours the excitement and drama as it unfolds.

We request that all mobile, photographic and video devices are put away during the performance. Photography, filming and recording are prohibited during performances in the auditorium and other venues, but you are welcome to take photographs before the start, during the interval or the applause at the end.

We do invite you to post your images and clips, tagging us #WFO afterwards on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Tell us about your Wexford Festival Opera experience!

As with all other theatrical performances, we advise patrons to be sensitive to the people around them and take note of any advice, instructions or requests from festival staff and volunteers if asked to do so.

Soprano: A high, bright voice type, which is typically the heroine role

Mezzo-soprano: A voice type with a lower range than the soprano. This voice can play various roles, including young men – known as a 'trouser role'

Contralto: The lowest female voice range

Countertenor: The highest male voice type

Tenor: The higher men's voice type, generally reserved for the young hero role. Lyric tenors sing with a particularly melodic tone

Baritone: A deeper voice type that generally sings the villain or mischief-maker role

Bass: The lowest voice type, usually older male or comic roles

Aria: A piece of music for a soloist

Bel Canto: A traditional Italian style of singing and opera, accentuating tone and phrasing

Buffo: A comic singer (basso-buffo) or a comic opera (opera-buffa)

Cadenza: A passage of singing at the end of an aria, which showcases the singer's vocal talents

Choreographer: The designer of dance and movement for the production

Chorus: An ensemble of singers who sing together in a group

Classical: The period in music spanning the period from Mozart to Beethoven

Coloratura: Embellishment of music using fast notes and trills

Composer: The writer of all the music for the opera

Conductor/Maestro: The person in charge of the musical interpretation and coordination; who conducts and coordinates the dynamic and balance between singers and orchestra

Designer: An opera production has several designers, including ones for sets, costumes, and lighting, who together create the style of the production

Falsetto: High part of the voice used by male singers to imitate a female role

Grand Opera: French Opera of the Romantic period (post-Beethoven), often with a large cast and orchestra

House: The auditorium and front of the theatre are referred to as the House

Librettist: The writer of the Opera’s text, the libretto

Opera Buffa: Dating from the eighteenth century, often but not always, a comic work

Opera Seria: A serious opera, usually featuring gods and goddesses

Opera-Comique: A form of opera containing some spoken dialogue

Operetta: A light opera with spoken dialogue

Overture: The introduction to the opera played by the orchestra

Principal: A significant singing role/character in the opera

Recitative: Sung dialogue

Score: The written opera music

Stage Director: The individual in charge of the production. This person creates the concept for the production and guides the cast and chorus in their interpretation of their characters in the opera

Stage Manager: The co-ordinator of the stage performance

Surtitles: English translations of the opera projected above the stage for the audience's benefit during a performance.

Opera is a unique and fully immersive experience. It encompasses the beauty of stagecraft, costume, setting, movement, imagination and drama with the power of music and voice to express the depth of human emotion and life experiences. Opera is as broad as any other art form.

Opera is for everyone. Perfect for those who want to explore a new type of experience, it can also surprise with its relevance to contemporary themes and convey emotion in its rawest form. Opera can be moving and memorable, allowing audiences to laugh out loud with its comedic irreverence or ponder some of life's deepest secrets.

Many genres are covered in the festival's pursuit to rediscover rare and neglected works in the canon of old, new and modern, be they farcical, satirical, dramatic, tragic or somewhere in-between.

In the last few years, we have focused on programming a festival around a theme, exploring a repertoire of operas and events that will appeal to a broader audience across genres. There is something for everyone, young and young at heart, at Wexford Festival Opera.

Explore what's in store in this year's festival programme.

“…there is something wonderful and special about walking those streets in your best clothes on those Festival nights, when you know that you are going to see an opera you will probably never see again, an opera that deserves to be better known, or has strange and interesting flaws or contains hidden, forgotten treasures.”
- Colm Tóibín, Irish Fiction Laureate