Opera, choral, concerto - highlights of the 2020 classical music calendar
All sub-genres - opera, choral, concerto - and levels of production are catered for in what looks to be a bounteous year for classical music in Ireland. Old reliables such as Wexford Festival Opera and the continually excellent programming at the National Concert Hall are augmented by the efforts of Irish National Opera to make opera accessible and inclusive. And for those just wishing to dip their toes in at the shallow end, there's always arena-filling Goliaths such as Andrea Bocelli and 'Maestro of the masses' himself, André Rieu.
St Patrick's Mental Health Services, Dublin (January 12)
This collaboration between Irish National Opera and the excellent mental health-awareness arts festival First Fortnight looks intriguing. Composer Amanda Feery and poet and spoken-word star Stephen James Smith worked with service users of St Patrick's to pen a concert aria (entitled As Above, So Below). This event will premiere that material with the aid of mezzo-soprano Bríd Ní Ghruagáin, soprano Dominica Williams, and the Bangers and Crash Percussion Group. Time will also be devoted to a discussion about the creation of the piece itself. www.irishnationalopera.ie
Hansel and Gretel
Touring nationwide (February 8 -March 7)
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Irish National Opera is trying to get the message across that opera is for everyone, and this first co-production with Theatre Lovett and the Abbey Theatre will look to welcome younger audience viewers, from age nine up. Engelbert Humperdinck's famous opera take on the Grimm fairy tale has young characters front and centre, with just enough dark intrigue hovering behind the beautiful music to keep you interested. Stopping off right around the country; see www.irishnationalopera.ie for dates and tickets.
Maxim Vengerov w/ the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra
National Concert Hall, Dublin (March 20)
A chance to hear Brahm's only violin concerto at the hand of Russo-Israeli virtuoso Maxim Vengerov and the RTÉ NSO, in all its undulating contours and textures; that would be enough of a draw for this evening at the NCH, but there is also the small matter of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the incredible child prodigy who fled Nazi Vienna for the US, and became one of the greatest film composers of Hollywood's Golden Age. Vengerov will essay the Sinfonietta, a suitably cinematic piece composed when Korngold was just 15. www.nch.ie
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin (March 22-28)
The greatest femme fatale in opera's canon will be interpreted by Irish mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy in this co-production by Opera Philadelphia and Seattle Opera. Carmen is a juicy old romp of a thing, Bizet's arias throbbing with libidinous energy as the titular gypsy temptress sashays her way into the heart of a naïve soldier, leading him on a path to jealousy and murder. www.irishnationalopera.ie / www.bordgaisenergytheatre.ie
3Arena, Dublin (April 17 & 18)
Make way, here he comes. Maastricht's grand sultan of waltz arrives for two nights armed with nothing but a Stradivarius, a 60-strong orchestra, various international soloists and a jukebox of classical music's grandest staples. While Rieu might seem as 'showbiz' as the genre gets, dismiss him at your peril. Lavish stage production, an immaculate set-list, and a generous flow of goodies (bringing Dubliner John Sheahan on stage in 2016 for a rendition of Marino Waltz, for instance) are signs of a master entertainer in charge of a finely calibrated machine. www.andrerieu.com and Ticketmaster.
National Concert Hall (May 15)
Dubliner Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) was one of the most influential names in choral composition and lit a torch for Vaughan Williams and Holst. Requiem is his defining masterpiece, a work of staggering breadth and ambition that could fold itself into tight emotional spaces before unfurling with magisterial power. Conductor Gerhard Markson will lead the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and RTÉ Philharmonic Choir, including homegrown soloists Máire Flavin (soprano) and Sharon Carty (alto). See www.nch.ie or www.orchestras.rte.ie
Kilkenny Arts Festival
Various venues, Kilkenny (August 6-16)
A fully staged production of Handel's Semele, a performance of Mozart's Requiem and Clarinet Concerto by Irish Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Choir Ireland, and world premieres of new commissions by Kinsale's Linda Buckley and Pulitzer-winning composer Caroline Shaw. These are just a sprinkling of early highlights we can reveal for KAF 2020's classical programme. Keep an eye on www.kilkennyarts.ie for further updates.
69th Wexford Festival Opera
Wexford (October 20 - November 1)
A new era for Wexford, as incoming artistic director Rosetta Cucchi (the eighth in the festival's storied 68-year history) takes the reins from the legendary David Agler. She will look to put her stamp on things with an expanded programme inspired by Shakespeare and the launch of the Wexford Factory Academy for young Irish singers. The 70 performances over 13 days will include "pocket operas" such as Shakespeare in Love, The Dark Side of Shakespeare, and Shakespeare for Fun. www.wexfordopera.com
3Arena, Dublin (October 21 & 22)
A second night has been added to this visit by arguably the biggest solo star in recorded classical music history. Bocelli's god-like abilities and air of serenity have driven millions of hands into wallets ever since 'Time to Say Goodbye' made him a household name in the late '90s. Last year's Si was the Italian's first new material in 16 years, and featured collaborations with Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran and Josh Groban. But don't let that put you off - he can still elicit the goosebumps live. www.ticketmaster.ie
Verdi's Il Trovatore (Cork) and
La Traviata (Dublin)
Cork Opera House (November 1),
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin (November 25-29)
November is the month to catch Verdi's dual masterpieces, conjured simultaneously in the great Italian composer's mind in the mid-1800s. Il Trovatore will be the concluding instalment of Cork's Opera Concert Series 2020 (following Leoncavallo's Pagliacci on February 16 and Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore on May 31), a rousing blunderbuss of murder, vengeance, family feuds and the occult. The more romantic - and ubiquitous - La Traviata will follow later in the month in the Dublin docklands, with five nights of this most staged opera in the world courtesy of Moscow's Novaya Opera company. www.corkoperahouse.ie / wwwbordgaisenergytheatre.ie