Saturday 25 November 2017

2016 Wexford Festival Opera

By David Tucker

'Herculanum' is set against the backdrop of Mount Vesuvius.
'Herculanum' is set against the backdrop of Mount Vesuvius.

a DRAMATIC and diverse trio of rarely-produced operas will headline the 2016 Wexford Festival Opera, which offers an eclectic mix of musical magic for audiences of all tastes.

Announcing details of this year's Festival, Artistic Director David Agler, said the 12-day Festival, will open with 'Herculanum' by Félicien David (1810-1876), an epic tale of forbidden love between Pagan royalty and Christian slaves, set against the backdrop and ultimate eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Samuel Barber's (1910-1981) first opera, 'Vanessa,' tells the story of an ageing woman, not wanting to acknowledge the many years that have passed since her former lover's departure, waiting with tense anticipation for his return, only to discover that he is not who he appears to be.

Wexford's relationship with Gaetano Donizetti dates back to 1952 when his, then little-known opera, 'L'elisir d'amore was performed.' Since then, 15 further Donizetti productions have been staged.

'Maria de Rudenz' by Donizetti (1797-1848) will be the 17th full-scale production of a Donizetti opera and centres around a scorned woman's determination to destroy her former lover and his new intended bride.

In addition to the three evening operas, this year's programme also includes three daytime shortworks operas, concerts, lunchtime recitals, lectures, talks, parties, buffets and lunches: 56 events over the 12-day Festival. There is a range of ticket prices for the evening operas beginning at just €25, while daytime events range from just €10 to €30. Prelude Friends can avail of tickets from €20.

'Probably my greatest pleasure as Artistic Director is to stand at the door every evening to greet new and familiar faces to the Festival. Wexford is rich in creativity, in music performance and composition, theatrical production, art and literature. All these life-enhancing gifts come together in opera and I'm proud to play a role in making this happen,' said Mr Agler.

'Herculanum' will be conducted by David Agler, while the award-winning team of Stephen Medcalf and Jamie Vartan, (A Village Romeo and Juliet (2012) and Cristina, regina di Svezia (2014)) return to direct and design.

Barber's 'Vanessa,' an opera in three acts, was first performed in New York at the Metropolitan Opera on 15 January 1958. Wexford performances: 27, 30 October / 2, 5 November. An all-American creative team will be at the helm of this production, including conductor Timothy Myers, Director James Robinson (The Golden Ticket, 2010), Set Designer Allen Moyer (The Ghosts of Versailles, 2009, Virginia, 2010) and Costume Designer James Schuette.

Donizetti 's 'Maria de Rudenz,' an opera in three acts with libretto by Salvadore Cammarano and sung in Italian, was first performed in Venice at the Teatro La Fenice, 30 January 1838. Wexford performances: October 28, 31 November 3, 6.

British conductor Andrew Greenwood returns to Wexford having last conducted the internationally critically acclaimed 'Cristina, regina di Svezia' in 2014. Italian director Fabio Ceresa and costume designer Giuseppe Palella also return, having directed and designed Guglielmo Ratcliff last year. New to Wexford Festival is Irish set designer Gary McCann. In addition to the three main evening operas, there will be three daytime shortWorks operas that audiences have come to cherish just as much as the main evening operas. The productions will be staged once again in Clayton Whites Hotel with its newly configured audience seating plan. The three intimate productions include: The farcical short opera, 'Il Campanello (The Night Bell)' by Donizetti, 'Riders to the Sea' by Ralph Vaughan Williams, based on the Irish play by John Millington Synge, and 'The Bear' by William Walton, on a vaudeville by Anton Chekov. Also extremely popular with Festival audiences, lunchtime recitals form an integral part of the daytime programme and provide a unique opportunity to hear the principal artists of the Festival perform their favourite repertoire in the intimate and informal setting of St Iberius Church in the centre of Wexford town. One of the delights of attending a Lunchtime Recital is that the programme is not advertised beforehand. A great favourite too, the Gala Concert is one of the highlights of the Festival. The 2016 Gala Concert will be hosted by one of Wexford Festival's favourite directors, Roberto Recchia. Bookings can be made online at or by ringing or calling into the box-office at the National Opera House Monday-Saturday between 9.30 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. on +353 (0)53 912 2144.

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