Sixty years on, Wexford opera festival now note-perfect
Published 14/10/2011 | 05:00
Next Friday October 21st, the 60th annual Wexford Opera Festival opens , with over 20,0000 people are expected to descend on the town.
SIXTY years ago, the man who went on to become the fourth president of Ireland sat in the audience to watch the first opera performed in a modest seaside town.
The first ever programme for the Wexford Festival Opera, priced at two shillings and six pence, is a far cry from the line-up unveiled yesterday for the 2011 event.
Ireland was suffering from desperate economic times when the curtain lifted on 'The Rose of Castille' to an audience including the late Erskine Childers in 1951.
While our economic woes have returned, the Wexford Festival Opera is still somewhat immune to recession, with the event expected to bring in an estimated €8.5m to the region's economy.
Almost 40pc of all tickets are sold to people outside of Ireland -- and this year's event which opens on Friday, October 21, will attract over 20,000 people to Wexford town over 16 days.
"We are the largest employer in the town for this time of year, we have close to 300 people working on the festival," said festival chief executive David McLoughlin.
The opera receives annual funding of around €1.4m from the Arts Council but directly returns €1.1m to the Exchequer in taxes from employees.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny will open this year's festival with a quay-front ceremony.
Yesterday, the opera stage was filled with performers practising a dress rehearsal for 'Gianni Di Parigi' by Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti.
It tells a popular 15th Century story about the French heir to the throne, the Dauphin, who is betrothed to the Princess of Navarre. They have never met and he wants to find out if she is really as beautiful as he has been told.
Poland's influence in Ireland can also be seen on the programme with a performance of 'Maria' by Roman Statkowski. This is a rare chance -- as the opera has even been ignored in his native Poland.
Commenting on the festival, artistic director David Agler said it was formed at a time when Ireland was at a financial disadvantage.
"It didn't stop the founders then and it won't stop us now," Mr Agler said.
Tickets for the main opera performances vary from €50 to €120.