The Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport Mary Hanafin T.D. went to Wexford Opera House to help launch the official programme for Wexford Festival Opera (59th Festival).
The Festival Chairman, Peter Scallan, spoke about the risk of planning to run for 15 nights as against last year’s 12. He said they were giving two fingers to the recession and spoke with pride of the wide community support this Festival gets. He described the many volunteers who assist the event as the largest sponsor to the festival. Wexford has been described as the best niche opera festival in the world. 40% of the audience come from abroad and this year to entice more UK visits, the festival in conjunction with Aer Arann and Waterford Airport will bus patrons for free from Waterford to Wexford.
Artistic Director, David Agler, outlined an interesting programme of three man stage operas, Virginia by Mercadante, an epic tale of love, obsession and politics as the plebeians revolt and overturn the patrician rulers. Premiered in 1866, it may have a relevant for politicians today.
Smetana’s Hubicka (The Kiss) a story of love, high principles and stubbornness and reconciliation is a folk opera and will be sung in Czech. The big ticket opera will be a contemporary one that will only premiere in St.Louis in June. The Golden Ticket based on the Willy Wonka-Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, could create a family interest and break new ground for Wexford.
In the Shortworks programme at White’s Hotel there will be a condensed La Bohéme and Winners, the first part of a two-act opera, Ballymore. Winners is based on the tragic play by Brian Friel, describing the last day on earth of teenagers Mag and Joe.
Minister Hanafin was spirited and enthusiastic and saw the festival as a beacon for local pride and of people doing it for themselves.
Speaking to Thomas de Mallet Burgess, Director of People and Culture, he outlined the future hope, funding permitting to having a short musical theatre festival with the possibility of commissioning new work, especially for Wexford. He also hoped to attract a UK or European name to front a show that could also play abroad.
The 50th anniversary of Waterford International Festival of Light Opera has a new seven person committee, chaired by Anne-Marie Caulfield and running from November 3rd-13th with a Gala Extravaganza. David Turner will adjudicate and the Festival has a new name going forward as they say – Waterford International Festival of Music.
A junior Festival is being considered as well as a choral event alongside a vibrant Fringe. I found the recent press release long on aspiration and short on actual names of shows, societies and events but I am led to believe, a local production of Company is under consideration. Along with two Dublin shows. South Anglia Sawyards and a Trent/Nottingham production under the direction of Andrew Nicklin. Expect details before the end of May.