Festival Diary 2019: Wexford Festival Opera, Day 1

By Alan Neilson

Just arrived in Wexford for its annual festival, which will in fact be the final year for its Artistic Director, David Agler. Unfortunately, at first glance at least, it does not appear to be the most imaginative program, with both Vivaldi’s “Dorilla in Tempe,” and Rossini’s “Adina” having already received production premiere’s in the past 18 months in Venice and Pesaro respectively, whilst Massenet’s “Don Quichotte” does not fit easily with the festival’s philosophy of staging forgotten or rarely performed operas.

However, a closer look reveals a number very interesting works which may offer far more than is first assumed. Firstly, there is a concert performance of Charles Villiers Stanford’s “The Veiled Prophet” which certainly is a rarely performed work.

Then, there is a new work by the Irish composer, Andrew Synnott, “La Cucina” to a libretto by the festival’s newly appointed Artistic Director (from 2020), Rosetta Cucchi, as well as an afternoon performance of “Cendrillon” by Pauline Viardot, sister of the famous 19th century soprano, Maria Malibran. All of these, along with the daily recitals given by selected singers from the operas, and its opera shorts, should make for an interesting five days.

Such is the current state of opera in Ireland that last evening I was able to catch an excellent performance of Vivaldi’s “Griselda” by Irish National Opera in Kilkenny, which showcased a wonderful group of singers, headlined by Katie Bray in the title role, who impressed at this year’s Cardiff Singer of the World, winning the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize.