Wexford Festival Opera announces details of 2017 Festival

66th Wexford Festival Opera 19 October – 5 November 2017

Full programme details and casting –


The 66th Festival will open with Medea by Luigi
Cherubini directed by Fiona Shaw, who is known for both her award-winning
theatre and film acting work, including playing Medea, in a production that
originated at the Abbey Theatre before moving to the West End and
eventually onto Broadway, earning her a Tony nomination. In recent times,
she has been making a significant impact as an opera director with
productions such as Riders to the Sea, Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers and The Marriage of Figaro for
English National Opera, The Rape of Lucretia for Glyndebourne and
the Deutsche Oper, Berlin. Fiona Shaw will also deliver the 2017 Dr Tom Walsh Lecture on Saturday, 21 October in
Clayton Whites Hotel.

The other two main evening operas include the highly anticipated Margherita by Jacopo Foroni, which hasn’t been
seen or heard since it premiered in Milan in 1848 and Risurrezione by Franco Alfano, based on the
Tolstoy novel.

The festival is also delighted to present a co-production with Opera
Theatre Company, the world-premiere of two one-act operas entitled,Dubliners. Based on Counterparts and The Boarding House from Joyce’s Dubliners, the operas are
composed by Andrew Synnott with adaptation and text by Arthur Riordan.
Performed by a cast of six accompanied by piano and string quartet.

Commenting on the upcoming Festival, Artistic Director David Agler said, “

For the first time in many years five of the six operas produced are
sung in Italian. The 66th Festival will open with


by Luigi Cherubini, an opera which had a sensational reception at its
premiere in 1859, after which, like so many Wexford revivals, the opera
went into decline. I am delighted that two distinguished Irish artists,
director Fiona Shaw and designer Annemarie Woods, will make their
Wexford debuts with this production. Leading the orchestra will be
conductor Stephen Barlow. Several exceptional young singers will be
involved in the production including the remarkable Norwegian Lise
Davidsen, nominated

Best Young Singer

in the 2017 International Opera Awards and Russian tenor Sergey


by Jacopo Foroni will be the second opera by this only recently
rediscovered composer to be presented in Wexford. The surprise hit of
the 2013 Festival was Foroni’s

Cristina, regina di Svezia

which went on to win a major prize for Wexford at the International
Opera Awards. Making their Wexford debuts will be director Michael
Sturm and designer Stefan Rieckhoff. Our conductor will be Timothy
Myers, who led the excellent performance of Samuel Barber’s


last season. The cast will include singers on their way to promising
futures. Alessandra Volpe, an impressive Italian mezzo-soprano will
take the title role and Andrew Stenson will sing the part of


The third production at our 2017 Festival will be Franco Alfano’s
Risurrezione based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel Resurrection

. The creative team for this exciting verismo opera is in the hands of
Festival veterans Rosetta Cucchi, Tiziano Santi and Claudia
Pernighotti. Fresh from our 2015 Festival production of

Guglielmo Ratcliff

, conductor Francesco Cilluffo will lead the Wexford Festival Orchestra
and Chorus.

“And in another first for Wexford, we will present a co-production with
Opera Theatre Company, the world-premiere of


by Irish composer Andrew Synnott as part of our daytime ShortWorks. In
addition to customary lunchtime recitals, lectures and the Gala Concert
throughout the extended 18-day Festival, I am delighted to announce a
piano recital in the National Opera House with Ireland’s own
outstanding pianist Finghin Collins, as well as the return of Una Hunt,
Ireland’s leading authority on Irish composers whose music has been
largely forgotten or neglected. Una has assembled a very special
programme from the music of the much beloved Thomas Moore.

The main evening operas:


Based on the Euripides play, Medea is one of the most notorious figures
from Greek mythology, a sorceress whose main claim to fame is the event
that brings down the curtain on Cherubini’s opera: She murders her own
children in revenge for her husband, Jason’s, betrayal. Cherubini’s
masterpiece remains a work of which everyone has heard, famously recorded
by Maria Callas, but relatively few opera lovers have actually experienced
in the theatre. Medea is a fierce work, and not
simply because of its subject matter.


Following the success of Cristina, regina di Svezia at Wexford in
2013, acclaimed by many as one of the most worthwhile rediscoveries in the
festival’s long history, another of Jacopo Foroni’s operas, his first,Margherita, premiered one year earlier than Cristina in front of the ‘home’ audience in Milan. It was greeted
with considerable enthusiasm at the time, though like his other work, fell
into obscurity after his untimely death at age 32. It is widely believed
that had he lived he would have been a worthy rival to Verdi.

This light-hearted opera tells the story of a rural young woman Margherita
and her quest to marry her soldier-love Ernesto. This is the first staging
of the opera since its premiere in Milan in 1848. As there is no official
recording of the opera either, it promises to be one of the highly
anticipated productions of the Festival. A co-production with Opera Omaha.


Franco Alfano is remembered today less for his own operas than for his role
in completing another composer’s work – Turandot, left unfinished
at the time of Puccini’s death. Risurrezione, the
opera that brought Alfano his first taste of fame, premiered in Turin in
1904. Based upon Tolstoy’s novel of the same name, Risurrezione is set in Russia and deals with the
maid Katiusha and her ill-fated affair with Prince Dimitri Nekludoff.

One hour prior to the performance of each of these three productions, Pre-opera Talks are held in the adjacent Jerome Hynes
Theatre. These free, informal talks give the audience some insight to the
opera and the composer and offer the audience an opportunity to ask
questions. Talks are free. No advance booking required.

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

In addition to the three main evening operas, there will be three daytime ShortWorks operas that audiences have come to cherish just
as much as the main evening operas. Intimately staged and approximately one
hour in length, the ShortWorks operas are presented in the
nearby Clayton Whites Hotel (formerly Whites of Wexford) and offer
audiences the opportunity to enjoy a one-act opera or a condensed version
of a more familiar opera performed by cast members of the evening operas.

The ShortWorks productions:

La Scala di seta
by Gioachino Rossini, one his lesser-known works, belongs firmly to his
early Italian years, and indeed is a key work in his development, even if
it is only more recently that its jewel-like qualities have come to be
fully appreciated. A fast-moving comedy, its title translates as ‘The
Silken Ladder’ – in this case, a stairway to the heaven of various
nocturnal rendezvous.

by Irish composer Andrew Synnott with adaptation and text by Arthur Riordan
two one-act operas; Counterparts and The Boarding House
from Joyce’s Dubliners will receive its world-premiere for four
performances only. The opera is written for a cast of six accompanied by
piano and string quartet. Dubliners is a co-production with Opera
Theatre Company.

by Giuseppe Verdi, a condensed version of the original, was the first of
his operas to have remained popular since its premiere in 1851. Containing
some of opera’s most beloved arias including ‘la donne È mobile’, the
tragic story revolves around the licentious Duke of Mantua, his
hunch-backed court jester Rigoletto and Rigoletto’s beautiful daughter
Gilda. The opera’s original title, La maledizione (The Curse),
refers to the curse placed on both the Duke and Rigoletto by a courtier
whose daughter had been seduced by the Duke with Rigoletto’s encouragement.
The curse comes to fruition when Gilda likewise falls in love with the Duke
and eventually sacrifices her life to save him from the assassins hired by
her father.

Also extremely popular with Festival audiences, the Lunchtime Recitals (approximately 50 minutes in length)
form an integral part of the daytime programme. The Lunchtime Recitals
offer a unique opportunity to hear the principal artists of the Festival
perform their favourite repertoire in the intimate and informal setting of
St Iberius Church in the centre of Wexford town. Unsurprisingly, the
Lunchtime Recitals sell out very quickly. The artists and their performance
dates will be announced prior to the Festival.

Una Hunt, Ireland’s leading authority on Irish composers whose music has
been largely forgotten or neglected, who will present The Thomas Moore Songbook a programme of Moore’s Irish
Melodies. Two performances will be presented in the atmospheric setting of
St Iberius Church on Thursday, 20 and Saturday, 28 October.

A special daytime package for Ä65 includes a Lunchtime
Recital or Thomas Moore Songbook concert, 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.

One of Ireland’s most successful pianists, Dubliner Finghin Collins will perform a piano recital in the
O’Reilly Theatre in the National Opera House on bank holiday Monday, 30
October at 11 a.m. Having initially studied at the Royal Irish Academy of
Music with John O’Connor and the Geneva Conservatoire with Dominique
Merlet, Finghin went on to winning awards in Ireland and ultimately
achieving great international success by taking first prize at the Clara
Haskil International Piano Competition in Switzerland in 1999. Since then
he has developed a flourishing international career that takes him all over
Europe, the United States and the Far East.

This year the Festival will present two lectures. On Saturday, 21 October,
the 2017 Dr Tom Walsh Lecture will be given by Cork
native, Fiona Shaw, renowned actress and theatre and opera director,
marking her Wexford Festival Opera directorial debut. In addition to her
critically-acclaimed opera directing, Fiona is also widely known for her
extensive and celebrated acting performances with the Royal Shakespeare
Company and the National Theatre, twice winning the Olivier Award for Best
Actress; for various roles including Electra in 1990, and for Machinal in 1994. She won the 1997 Drama Desk Award for
Outstanding Solo Performance for The Waste Land. Her other stage
work includes playing the title role in Medea, at the Abbey
Theatre, West End and on Broadway (2001-02) resulting in a Tony Award
nomination. She was awarded an Honorary CBE in 2001.

On Saturday, 28 October in the Jerome Hynes Theatre in the National Opera
House, Canadian broadcaster and associate professor of musicology at the
Faculty of Music of the University of Montreal, Sylvia L’…cuyer will
present a talk entitled Operas of the Past, Mirrors of our Present,
exploring the trends in updating operas into contemporary circumstances.
Both lectures are just Ä10 each.

A Festival tradition, the Gala Concert is one of the
highlights year on year, featuring a collection of favourite party pieces
from members of the Festival Company. All performers generously donate
their time and talent and all proceeds go toward supporting Wexford
Festival Opera.

Affiliated with the Festival since the 50s, are the Wexford Festival Opera Historical Tours, programmed by
long-time associate of Wexford Festival Opera, Nicky Furlong on behalf of
Wexford Historical Society. Led by expert guides, these tours explore
places of historical interest throughout County Wexford’s ancient east,
some well-known; some lesser known. The tours leave the Talbot Hotel car
park at 10.30 a.m. sharp and return to Wexford by 1 p.m., just in time for
the Lunchtime Recitals. The tours are free and are open to all. Full
details of these popular tours are announced each year in September. No
booking necessary. For more information visit


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, and of course the legendary Singing and Swinging Pubs competition. The Fringe Festival is
coordinated by the Wexford Chamber of Commerce. Full details: www.wexfordfringe.ie

Priority booking for Friends of Wexford Festival Opera opens on a
staged basis from Saturday, 25 March. General booking opens on Saturday, 15
April. For more information on how to become a Friend of Wexford Festival Opera, and avail of priority booking
plus many other benefits throughout the year, visit


For more information on how to travel to Wexford, accommodation, and the
most up to date casting and programme details or to download the Festival
brochure, visit www.wexfordopera.com.

The 66th Wexford Festival Opera is supported by grants from the Arts
Council, F·ilte Ireland, and Wexford County Council.