Festival Diary 2021: Wexford Festival Opera, Day 1

By Alan Neilson

It has been two years, but the Wexford Festival Opera is back. If anything, the town seems more lively and colorful than I remember, and there is a definite buzz in the air.

Although this is artistic director Rosetta Cucchi’s second year in charge, this will be the first opportunity for audiences to see her ideas at work, her inaugural season being lost to the COVID crisis. However, she has been working hard behind the scenes developing young talent with her Opera Factory project, which this year will be performing Bellini’s “I Capuletti e i Montecchi” at the festival.

One of her more attention grabbing ideas is the introduction of Pop-up events. Every day there will be short multi-disciplinary performances in locations dotted around the town, open to anyone who happens to be passing by.

Today the Italian soprano Valentina Mastrangelo, who OperaWire recently interviewed about her forthcoming role as Olivia in the festival’s production of Thomas’ opera “Le Songe d’un nuit dété,” gave a short recital of Neapolitan songs at “Frank’s Place” on North Main Street.

The lunchtime recital is a Wexford tradition in which selected singers from the operas are given the opportunity to perform a full program of pieces of their own choosing. Today it was the turn of Australian baritone Simon Thorpe who included Richard Rodney Bennett’s song cycle “Songs Before Sleep,” six nursery rhymes which are likely to give you nightmares. He also sang a number of arias, the pick of which was the Forester’s aria from Janacek’s “Cunning Little Vixen” in which his identification with the character came across well, in what was a reflective and passionate reading.

The evening’s opera was Catalani’s little known and rarely performed “Edmea” starring French soprano Anne Sophie Duprels, who made such an excellent impression a few year’s back as Katiusha in Wexford’s production of Alfano’s “Il Risurrezione,” and Italian tenor Luciano Ganci, OperaWire’s current Artist of the Week.