The long awaited 50th anniversary staging of the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera, which was to have taken place last year, is now highly unlikely to occur this September either even though major renovations at the Theatre Royal are scheduled to be concluded in time.
People close to the music scene in Waterford were said to be despondent this week. Most felt it was highly unlikely that the Festival would be held this year and there were a few who feared its days were numbered and that it would never be revived. “The Opera festival in its old familiar format is all but dead”, said one prominent personality.
The Festival, once the toast of top musical societies in Ireland, Britain, Continental Europe and North America, was last staged in 2007 but, despite plans for a gala 50th anniversary in 2008, the two week presentation failed to materialise for a number of reasons including the unavailability of the theatre.
When contacted by The Munster Express this week, the city manager, Michael Walsh, said no firm decision would be taken about this year’s event until after the annual general meeting of the Opera Festival Executive. It is understood that the Festival Executive remains optimistic that the Festival does have a future and an extraordinary general meeting will be held in the near future to discuss the matter in full before an annual general meeting is convened.
One of the Festival’s main sponsors, Waterford Crystal, is no more and it is understood there are no replacement sponsors waiting in the wings during this difficult time for businesses. The cost of producing shows has also rocketed and, according to informed sources in the world of theatre, even if the Festival did go ahead this year, most amateur music societies could not afford to take their productions to Waterford.
“It costs anything from €60,000 upwards to mount a show that would be suitable for the Waterford Festival and it could a further €30,000 to reprise the show as an entry. The money simply isn’t there”, said a producer not based in Waterford but familiar with the Festival.
Meanwhile, this week, our neighbours in Wexford proudly announced the programme for their 58th Wexford Festival Opera which will cost in the region of €2m to mount. See our entertainment columns next week for details.