Thursday 23 November 2017

Opera Festival ends on a high note and looks ahead to three weekends next year

By Amy Lewis

Opera bursary
Opera bursary

The curtains closed on the 65th Festival Opera over the weekend, marking an end to another successful festival season.

It ended on a high note on Sunday as more than 850 people including audience, cast, crew and volunteers joined hands to sing 'Auld Lang Syne' in harmony, bringing the festival to a theatrical close.

Over 23,000 tickets were issued for 54 separate events which ranged from evening performances, to ShortWorks daytime operas, to the ever-popular gala night. This year's Festival saw a continued increase in ticket sales, with many of the productions sold out in the months prior to the event.

Chairman of Wexford Festival Opera Ger Lawlor reflected on another successful festival, saying that Wexford has a lot to be proud of.

'On a personal note, I would just add that the reaction to the festival programme from our patrons from all over the world this year has been tremendously positive and that once again, David Agler has produced a Festival of world class standards.

'We continue to grow and to maintain the high standard of opera production which has been our trademark for 65 years, and of course this has grown hugely since we moved into the opera house. We couldn't do it without the support of the people of Wexford, The Arts Council, our local authority and of course our commercial sponsors, our Friends and our patrons who travel from all over the world to be with us at this special time of the year,' he said.

'The feedback from visiting opera professionals from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the USA and Canada who visited us this year has been overwhelming. It's great to see how the festival is regarded internationally, within the opera business and by our patrons.'

Along with praising the main opera productions which took place during the festival, Ger applauded the other events that were held around the town.

'Of course the operas are at the heart of the festival, however, the daytime events, the fringe and art exhibitions make the town a very special place and gives Wexford its unique and warm atmosphere at this time of year. The people of Wexford have shown once more that our hospitality and our Wexford welcome are second to none, and we look forward to a three weekend festival next year,' he added.

Over the course of the festival, Wexford has been in the spotlight across the globe as national and international media gave their views on the big event and some of the productions.

On Vanessa, The Daily Telegraph wrote: 'Wexford Festival Opera's brilliant new production...A personal triumph for Wexford's artistic director, David Agler, who knew both Barber and Menotti, this is one of the best-staged productions in the history of this Irish festival to lost operatic causes...'

The Times said of Herculanum: 'The find of the evening in [Andrew] Haji a lovely high tenor with impeccable musical diction…'

Closer to home, the festival received rave reviews in the media from both seasoned visitors, as well as newcomers to the Festival. One of these was Dick Redmond from Artane in Dublin, who won tickets to see Vanessa in a competition on the Pat Kenny radio show aimed at opera newbies. Though he had never been to an opera, Dick explained on air why he was always interested in the art.

'When Trappetoni took over the Irish national team, I was kitman. He didn't know any English and I didn't know any Italian so I tried to learn. On the discs there was a bit of music which I really enjoyed and that's how I got into the opera,' he explained.

However, although he enjoyed his visit, Dick said he wouldn't be rushing back to the opera anytime soon.

'The place was magnificent, the stage and sets were magnificent. It was a magnificent performance but it wasn't for me. Football and opera do not mix. We are not the same people. I think you need a trained ear to listen to opera,' he said.

Despite this, Dick said he thoroughly enjoyed his trip, with a performance of the national anthem before the show being one of the highlights.

'Overall, I had a great time. There was great entertainment in the hotel and the town itself was buzzing. A lot of people told me beforehand that everyone is buzzing during the festival. It is a fabulous town. I would recommended to anyone to go for a weekend,' he added.

On closing night, two bursaries were awarded and presented to two of this year's gifted young singers. The first, The Aria Friends' Bursary was awarded to Canadian mezzo-soprano Carolyn Sproule, as nominated by Aria Friends of Wexford Festival Opera. The second bursary awarded, The Gerard Arnhold Award, went to Belfast mezzo-soprano, Sarah Richmond. This award was donated by Anthony Arnhold in memory of his father Gerard Arnhold, who was a long-time patron and supporter of Wexford Festival Opera.

In recent months, the board of Wexford Festival Trust announced that they will expand the 2017 Festival from 12 to 18 days, running across three weekends, for the first time since 2008. This will add two extra nights of opera. The 66th Festival Opera will run from October 19 to November 5. The Festival will present Cherubini's Medea, Foroni's Margherita and Alfano's Risurrezione, all which will be performed in Italian. On closing night, Artistic Director David Agler announced the dates for the shows.

Medea will run on October 19, 22 and 28 and November 3. Margherita will run on October 20, 26 and 29 and November 1 and 4. Risurrezione will run on October 21, 27 and 30 and November 2 and 5.

Priority booking for Friends of Wexford Festival Opera opens on Saturday, March 25 and on Saturday, April 1. General booking opens on Saturday, April 15, 2017.

Wexford People

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