Music is central to the very fabric of Shakespeare’s late masterpiece The Tempest, so it is hardly surprising that this play has inspired more operas than any other Shakespearian work.
The survivors of a shipwreck — including the King of Naples and Prospero’s treacherous brother Antonio — are tormented by a storm conjured up by the magician Prospero himself with help from his spirit-servant Ariel. But his resentful slave Caliban plots against him. Ariel is summoned to protect the young lovers Miranda (Prospero’s daughter) and Ferdinand (the king’s son), but Caliban succeeds in abducting Miranda. Drinking with shipwrecked sailors, Caliban enlists their help but is thwarted when they find Ferdinand and recognise him as their prince. With the wave of his wand, Ariel transforms the scene into a palace hall where Miranda and Ferdinand celebrate their wedding. In a happy ending, all except Caliban prepare to sail back to Naples.
For all the exoticism in Lalla Roukh, there’s some local interest here: Félicien David’s opera is based on one of the most famous works of Thomas Moore, the celebrated Irish poet (and musician) who died 170 years ago this year.
The beautiful young princess, Lalla-Roukh, is promised in marriage to the king of a far-off land, whom she has never met. She sets out with her guards and confidants to meet and marry the king at his summer palace, but Lalla-Roukh has a secret. She has already been serenaded by a mysterious young singer, Noureddin, and has fallen in love with him. When she meets him again, en route to meet the king, she must make a choice. What will Lalla-Roukh follow – her duty or her heart? When the moment of decision comes – and Lalla declares that she would rather live in a simple cottage with Noureddin than in a palace with the king – the young singer reveals that he too has a secret. The surprise he springs on Lalla takes her entirely unawares while also granting them both the happiest of happy endings.
Dvořák’s last opera has been neglected for reasons that are at once hard to fathom and easily understandable. An ideal ‘Wexford work’, then, it ties together many strands from across operatic history.
In Damascus, news of an approaching Frankish army puts the royal court on alert, but the prince Ismen tries to dissuade the King Hydraot from dispatching an attacking force. Instead, he suggests sending the king’s daughter Armida (with whom Ismen is in love) to sow dissent. Armida initially refuses, but changes her mind when Ismen uses his magical powers to conjure up an image of the camp, where she recognises Rinald as the knight of whom she has just dreamt. In the crusaders’ camp, Armida and Rinald become lovers before escaping back to her garden. Though it appears that Armida’s powers of sorcery are stronger than Ismen’s magic, with the help of Rinald’s fellow knights they lure him out of the palace, which collapses amid Armida’s grief. Rejoining the crusaders, Rinald advances on Damascus, where he kills Ismen and — unwittingly — Armida. She dies in his arms.
From Rossini’s La Cenerentola to Massenet’s Cendrillon, the Cinderella story has enjoyed a successful operatic life.
Once upon a time, there was an opera company … Unfortunately, it is run by Cinderella’s evil Stepmother, and dominated by Griselda and Zibaldona, two talentless would-be divas. Their stepsister Cinderella is not allowed to perform, but because she is a gifted composer she is put to hard work as a music copyist. Cinderella is captivated by a poem she discovers and sets it to music — only to have her tune, though not the poem, stolen by Grisleda and Zibaldona and performed at a singing competition. Eventually, at a ball, the Prince gets to hear Cinderella herself sing it and recognises the poem as his own. When she flees at midnight there is only one thing for him to do: he searches for her and — ‘like lyrics find a melody’ — they are united.
The novelist Colm Tóibín may need no introduction, but his deep love and appreciation of opera may still catch some unaware.
The American novelist Henry James, by now fully entrenched in English society, is seeking seclusion in the town of Rye. Humiliated by the failure of his play Guy Domville, he flees to Ireland, but even here he suffers social embarrassment. Throwing himself into work is the only solution, and returning to England he begins a ghost story based on his family and friends — his invalid sister Alice, his bubbly cousin Minnie Temple and his close friend Constance Fennimore Woolson, all now dead — a story that reveals his own guilt at having failed them. Social demands also mean that Henry is repressing his homosexuality, and although he escapes some of these confines while visiting Italy, he resolves to settle back at Rye where he is watched over by objects from his past.
The Spectre Knight
Even by Wexford standards, Alfred Cellier (1844-91) is a rarely heard composer. He was a school friend of Arthur Sullivan, and the connections with Victorian operetta don’t stop there.
In a lonely glen there lives a banished Duke, his daughter Viola and a small band of courtiers who help them maintain the style of the former ducal establishment. But Viola knows nothing of life beyond the secluded glen; she was an infant when the Duke was banished there. When the Duke’s nephew Otho arrives, disguised as a friar, he falls in love with his cousin. Hearing from her of the Spectre Knight who is supposed to haunt the glen after dark, he reappears that night dressed as the ghost and wins Viola’s heart. When all is revealed, Otho is able to disclose that he has also overthrown the usurper of her father’s dukedom and that they can all return to their former home. The Duke gives Otho his daughter’s hand in marriage.
An intriguing new chamber opera merging the birth of cinema with dream-play and fantasy.
Les Selenites explores the bizarre world of 20th-century French film pioneer and stage illusionist Georges Méliès. Méliès began his career as a stage illusionist and was renowned for his use of innovative magical special effects and visual tricks, a skill he brought to his work in the burgeoning early 20th-century film industry. Mitchell has taken this fantastical world created by Méliès as the starting point for his chamber opera.
Taking on duel homes this year, the concerts will be held partly in the atmospheric surroundings of the O’Reilly Theatre, and will also return to the beautiful eighteenth-century church of St. Iberius.
The Lunchtime Recitals keep on providing an insight into the artistic personalities of some of the principal singers of the Festival. Thanks to the individual atmosphere and the crisp acoustic of both venues, audiences can appreciate the musical versatility of solo singers who perform a wide variety of music from across the repertoire, including operatic arias, lieder, oratorio, concert and popular songs.
Daniela Barcellona Gala
with the WEXFORD FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA
conducted by ALESSANDRO VITIELLO
A welcome return to the Wexford Festival Opera stage. The internationally renowned star, Daniela Barcellona, certainly needs no introduction.
Taking her first steps right here in Wexford (Parisina in 1996 and La fiamma in 1997), it will be a pleasure to welcome Daniela again.
Dr Tom Walsh Lecture
In 2022, the Dr Tom Walsh Lecture is presented by Patrick Spottiswoode, Founder, Globe Education and Senior Research Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe.
Patrick will explore how Shakespeare both mocked and championed the roughness of the English language at a time when it had little currency beyond Dover. He will also suggest that while Shakespeare’s rough magic aroused the censure of a few, it was the very roughness of his art that would excite the imagination of many 18th and 19th century European theatre makers, painters and composers, such as Fromental Halévy.
We are grateful for the ongoing sponsorship of the Lecture by Victoria Walsh Hamer who is the daughter of Wexford Festival Opera Founder, Dr Tom Walsh.
Michael Dervan hosts another impossible interview this year with a world-famous Hungarian-American illusionist and escape artist.
Michael has chosen another personality from the past for his impossible talk at Wexford Festival Opera in 2022. And this time we will be thrilled as we are introduced to, arguably, the greatest magician of his time. Non-other than the Hungarian-American escape artist, stunt performer and famous illusionist Mr Erik Weisz, better known as Harry Houdini!
The Gala Concert is undoubtedly one of the highlights of Wexford Festival Opera and features a collection of favourite party pieces from members of the Festival company.
All performers generously donate their time and talent for the Gala Concert, and all proceeds go toward supporting Wexford Festival Opera.
Early booking is advised.
with the WEXFORD FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA
and on piano & conducted by BARRY DOUGLAS
A special treat is in store for the Festival Final Concert.
Barry Douglas, the internationally renowned Irish pianist, will close the 71st Wexford Festival Opera conducting the Wexford Festival Opera Orchestra from the piano.