Wexford Festival Opera announces 2017 programme

By Maria Pepper

Actress Fiona Shaw.
Actress Fiona Shaw.
BELOW: These beautiful images will be part of the opera festival's promotional material this year, showing view sof Wexford Harbour, Ferrycarrig, Hook Head and Johnstown Castle imposed on opera performers.
BELOW: These beautiful images will be part of the opera festival's promotional material this year, showing view sof Wexford Harbour, Ferrycarrig, Hook Head and Johnstown Castle imposed on opera performers.
Actress Fiona Shaw.

A production directed by the renowned actress Fiona Shaw as well as operatic adaptations of stories from James Joyce's Dubliners are among the highlights of the newly announced Wexford Festival Opera programme for 2017.

The main stage operas are Luigi Cherubini's Medea conducted by Stephen Barlow and directed by the actress Fiona Shaw; Jacopo Foroni's Margherita conducted by Timothy Myers and directed by Michael Sturm and Franco Alfano's Risurrezione, based on the Leo Tolstoy novel, conducted by Francesco Cilluffo and directed by Rosetta Cucchi.

The highly anticipated Margherita by Foroni hasn't been seen or heard since it premiered in Milan in 1848. After an enthusiastic reception, it went into decline like so many other Wexford operatic revivals.

Fiona Shaw is known for her award-winning theatre and film acting work including playing the lead in Medea in a production that originated at the Abbey Theatre and eventually moving to Broadway, earning her a Tony nomination.

In recent times, she has been making an impact as an opera director with productions such as Riders to the Sea, Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers and the Marriage of Figaro for English National Opera and the Rape of Lucretia for Glyndebourne and the Deutsche Oper, Berlin.

The Cork native, who is known for her celebrated acting performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, will also deliver this year's Dr Tom Walsh Lecture at the festival on October 21 in Clayton Whites Hotel.

The second lecture of the programme will be given by Sylvia L'Ecuyer, the Canadian broadcaster and associate professor of musicology at the Faculty of Music of the University of Montreal who will talk about Operas of the Past, Mirrors of our Present, exploring the trends in updating operas into contemporary circumstances.

In addition to the three evening operas, there will be three daytime ShortWorks, approximately one hour in length, presented at Clayton Whites Hotel, offering a condensed version of a more familiar opera performed by cast members of the evening operas.

These include Dubliners by Irish composer Andrew Synnott with adaptation and text by Arthur Riordan featuring two one-act operas based on Counterparts and The Boarding House from Joyce's Dubliners which will receive its world premiere for four performances only in a co-production with Opera Theatre Company.

The other Shortworks are Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi, containing some of opera's most beloved arias including 'la donne e mobile' and La Scala di seta by Gioachino Rossini, an early work by the composer in the form of a fast-moving comedy.

Artists and performance dates for this year's lunch-time recitals featuring principal artists of the festival performing their favourite repertoire in St Iberius Church, will be announced closer to the festival.

One event in St. Iberius Church that has been confirmed is The Thomas Moore Songbook, a programme of Moore's Irish Melodies presented by Una Hunt, Ireland's leading authority on Irish composers whose music has been largely forgotten or neglected. There will be two performances on Thursday, October 20 and Saturday, October 28.

One of Ireland's most successful pianists, Dubliner Finghin Collins will perform a piano recital in the O'Reilly Theatre on bank holiday Monday, October 30. Having studied at the Royal Irish Academy of Music with John O'Connor and the Geneva Conservatoire with Dominique Merlet, Finghin, he achieved international success and developed a flourishing career that takes him all over Europe, the US and the Far East.

Now in its 66th year, the international festival will run over an extended 18-day period this year from Thursday, October 19 to Sunday, November 5.

Priority booking for Friends of Wexford Festival Opera will open on a staged basis from Saturday, March 25. Tickets go on sale to the public on April 15. See wexfordopera.com for details.

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