Artistic Director David Agler today announced full details of the 2015 Wexford Festival Opera which will take place this October.

Rejection, jealousy and forbidden love are at the heart of the three mainstage operas on offer this year at the 64th Wexford Festival Opera. Priority booking for Friends of Wexford Festival opens on Saturday, 28 February at 9.30 a.m., while general booking opens at the end of the month on Saturday, 28 March.

Specialising in unjustly neglected or rarely performed repertoire, the organisers of this world-renowned festival have found yet another three mainstage operas that comfortably fit into this category: Koanga by Frederick Delius, Guglielmo Ratcliff by Pietro Mascagni and Le Pré aux clercs by Ferdinand Hérold.

Wexford Festival Opera was founded in 1951 by a group of opera enthusiasts from Wexford town, headed by a local G.P., Dr Tom Walsh. This ambitious and, some might say, fantastical idea to produce a festival of lesser-known opera repertoire in a rural town in Ireland, has now grown into one of the top opera festivals in the world with approximately one-third of its audiences travelling to Wexford each October from abroad to see and hear what they are unlikely to experience anywhere else in the world.

In addition to the three mainstage operas, this year’s programme also includes three daytime ShortWorks operas, concerts, lunchtime recitals, lectures and talks: 52 events over the 12-day Festival. There are a range of ticket prices for the evening operas beginning at just €25, while daytime events range from just €10 to €25.

Commenting on this year’s programme, the 11th since he took the helm in 2005, Artistic Director David Agler said, ‘This autumn we unwrap three excellent operas which have been languishing neglected and unperformed.

I am delighted to be opening our Festival with another opera by the 20th-century British composer, Frederick Delius, with our new production of Koanga, a ground-breaking opera through its use of African-American music and characters, the first of its kind. I have been asked for Koanga by Festival patrons more than for any other opera, so I am delighted to be able to stage it so soon after our 2012 critically acclaimed production of A Village Romeo and Juliet, and I am most grateful to the Delius Trust for their generous support in helping us realise this production.

The young composer Pietro Mascagni was only 19 when he began to compose the first version of his opera, Guglielmo Ratcliff, a Gothic tale of a tormented man unable to accept rejection in love, set in an exotic Scottish location. This late 19th-century opera is also known for having one of the most difficult roles ever written for a tenor, which is probably one reason it is so rarely produced. While I will be announcing full casting at a later date, I can happily confirm that I have engaged the Russian tenor Sergey Polyakov to perform this most demanding role.

And finally, when the curtain rises on Le Pré aux clercs this October in Wexford, I will have the personal satisfaction of knowing that, at long last, an opera on the wish list of Festival founder, Dr Tom Walsh, is finally being produced at Wexford.’

The Programme:

Koanga by Frederick Delius is considered to be the first opera written about African-Americans. Inspired by the African-American songs Delius heard as a young man working on an orange plantation in Florida, Koanga is a powerfully atmospheric opera about a proud African prince, sold into slavery in Louisiana, who falls in love with a mixed-race maid, with tragic consequences.

Guglielmo Ratcliff by Pietro Mascagni is recognised as having one of the most demanding roles ever written for a tenor. Jealousy is at the heart of Mascagni’s blood-soaked opera, in which a young Scot, spurned by the object of his affections, challenges anyone who woos her to a duel. Enriched by atmospheric orchestral writing, full-blooded melodies and great dramatic pace, Guglielmo Ratcliff is the work of a master in full flow.

Le Pré aux clercs (The Clerks’ Meadow) by Ferdinand Hérold is a co-production with the famed Opéra-Comique de Paris, where the opera was originally performed in 1832. Based on a novel by Prosper Mérimée, Hérold’s opéra comique was a runaway success in the wake of its triumphant premiere. Set during the French Wars of Religion, Le Pré aux clercs is a touching romance in which a young countess rebels against the suitor chosen for her by the King of France and hatches a daring plot to escape with her lover to Navarre. A co-production with Opéra-Comique de Paris in partnership with La Fondazione Palazzetto Bru Zane – Centre de musique romantique française.

A taster menu of one hour ShortWorks (daytime short operas):

The ever-popular ShortWorks return to Whites of Wexford Hotel again this year with three intimate productions including: The Portrait of Manon by Jules Massenet (1842–1912),

Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck (1854–1921) and Tosca by Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924). Approximately an hour in length, the ShortWorks operas allow audiences to enjoy an original short opera or a condensed version of a more familiar opera. A special daytime package is on offer for €60 which includes a Lunchtime Recital, lunch and a ShortWorks opera. Timings allow audiences to travel easily to and from Wexford by car, bus or rail within a day. Seating is allocated for all of these performances.

Continuing a long-established Wexford tradition, the popular Lunchtime Recitals (approximately 50 minutes in length) will be presented in St Iberius Church in the centre of Wexford town. These recitals afford a unique opportunity to hear the principal artists of the Festival display their versatility in an intimate setting. The artists and their performance dates will be announced prior to the Festival.

Always a great favourite, the Gala Concert is one of the highlights of the Festival, featuring a collection of favourite party pieces from members of the Festival Company. This event sells-out early, so it is best not to hesitate.

Tara Erraught will perform a special recital on the October bank holiday Monday from the stage of the National Opera House. The Dundalk-born mezzo-soprano is a graduate of the Royal Irish Academy of Music and continues to study with Veronica Dunne, whom she describes as the guiding force in her musical career. Tara came to worldwide attention in February 2011 when she learned the role of Romeo in five days for a new production of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich, in order to replace an indisposed colleague. She had already sung solo roles in a number of productions at Glyndebourne, the Wiener Staatsoper, Theater an der Wien and the Bayerische Staatsoper, being hailed by the press as ‘the new queen of bel canto’. She has been a member of the opera studio at the Bayerische Staatsoper since 2008.

Wexford Festival Opera is delighted to once again be associated with the Dublin International Piano Competition. The 2015 Dublin International Piano Competition takes place in May when 69 selected applicants, including six from Ireland, will take part in the triennial competition, and as part of the first prize package, the 2015 winner will perform a very special concert on the stage of the O’Reilly Theatre in the National Opera House. The Wexford recital will be an early opportunity to hear the winner of this prestigious competition, which, like Wexford Festival Opera, prides itself on presenting the very best performers on the threshold of their careers.

The 2015 Dr Tom Walsh Lecture will be given by John Julius Norwich, one of the most distinguished and charismatic writers and broadcasters of our time. After a career in the diplomatic service he became a writer, particularly on history, art and travel subjects. As a popular broadcaster on television and radio he has written and presented some 30 television documentaries on art, architecture and history subjects, and is fondly remembered for his wit and erudition by listeners to the BBC radio programmes My Word! and Round Britain Quiz. He has chaired or served on the committees of numerous charitable projects, including those concerned with Venice, world monuments, fine arts, the disabled, the National Trust and English National Opera.

The Fringe Festival: Wexford Town also hosts a vibrant Fringe Festival to coincide with the Opera Festival which includes art exhibitions, drama and musical performances, historical tours, and of course the Singing and Swinging Pubs competition.

Source:- Tourism Ireland

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