Wednesday 16 October 2019

Bringing life to forgotten masterpieces

FOR SIXTY years many hundreds of thousands of people have made a pilgrimage to Wexford Festival Opera in search of buried operatic treasure.

Wexford Festival Opera prides itself in giving new life to unjustly neglected operas, introducing artists and audiences to the forgotten masterpieces. And it does this in high quality productions which annually delight both critics and audiences alike.

The Wexford Festival Opera has been running since 1951, playing a central role in the cultural life of Ireland, in the world of Opera and Arts internationally.

It all began with a gramophone recital. The great Scottish novelist and founder of the Gramophone magazine, Sir Compton Mackenzie, had been persuaded during a visit to Ireland to give a talk to the Wexford Opera Study Circle in November 1950. The Chairman of the Circle, Dr Tom Walsh struck up an excellent relationship with him and Sir Compton suggested Wexford should stage an opera in their little theatre.

A while later… Dr Tom, having studied the programmes for other festivals, discussed the idea of a local version with his friends Dr Des Ffrench, Eugene McCarthy the then owner of Whites Hotel and Seamus O'Dwyer an official in the local post office. Despite falling short of their fund-raising target, they nonetheless went ahead and ran a Festival of Music and the Arts from the 21st October to 4th November 1951, with a production of Balfe's "The Rose of Castile" on the first four nights of November. Sir Compton was present and became Festival President, a position he held until his death in 1972.

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