Saturday 23 February 2019

The Pleasure List: Ring in the new with Rachel

On song: Irish mezzo-soprano Rachel Kelly
On song: Irish mezzo-soprano Rachel Kelly
National Craft Gallery
Swatch Lucky Monkey
House of Lor

The postponed Placido Domingo concert will go ahead on Sunday January 17 at the 3arena, and alongside the much-loved Spanish tenor, up-and-coming young Irish mezzo-soprano Rachel Kelly will take to the stage.

This isn't her first time appearing with Domingo - Rachel sang the role of Pisana with him last year in Covent Garden's live cinema relay of Verdi's early masterpiece I Due Foscari.

Since then, Domingo has taken something of an interest in Rachel, hence the invitation to appear as his special guest on January 17, where she will perform a solo aria, a duet with Domingo, and will present 'zarzuela' - a cross between opera and Spanish popular song.

Recently, Rachel sang in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis at the National Concert Hall and later in January, she takes the leading role in Scottish Opera's world premiere production of the supernatural The Devil Inside, adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson's short story, The Bottle Imp and readied for the opera stage by novelist Louise Welsh and composer Stuart MacRae.

Looks like it's going to be a busy year for Rachel.

All in the eye of the beholder

Until the 1960s, the value of a piece of jewellery was entirely decided by the materials used in creating it. It was all purely a question of metal and stones. Then, however, a more radical generation of artist-jewellers challenged this, insisting on the quality of work and imagination put in. Non-precious metals and stones, used in an expressive way, were suddenly elevated as part of a desirable whole.

Sadly, we seem to have gone backwards a little and today, probably because of economic pressures, people are reverting to more traditionally 'valuable' materials for safety. Which is why the time is just right for Not Too Precious, an exhibition celebrating current work by artist-jewellers using non-precious materials, which opens at the National Craft Gallery in Kilkenny on January 22. This exhibition explores work by 28 international jewellers, along with three exciting graduating Irish jewellers: Emma Cahill, Jaki Coffey and Genevieve Howard.

Have you got the time Mr Monkey?

2016 is the Chinese Year of the Monkey, and falls on February 8. Monkeys, according to Chinese traditions, are blessed with great luck: smart, witty, resourceful, creative, talented and fast learners, this is one of the more enviable signs of the Chinese zodiac. For those born in previous monkey years - 1968, 1980 and 1992 - or anyone who just wants to embrace the characteristics, Swatch have released a special new watch collection, the Lucky Monkey, which shows a red monkey on the white dial.

A closer look reveals that he is holding a peach, meaning that this is in fact the Monkey King, a hero of the classic Chinese fantasy novel, Journey to the West, written in the 17th century - and an auspicious sign of a long life and good health. The watch design owes much to Chinese paper cutting, a traditional handcraft dating back to the 6th century, and is an object of delight as well as usefulness.

Rare and precious: A success story of Irish gold

Behind every piece of jewellery is a story - the story of who? Of what? Of why? And, in the case of Irish company House of Lor, the story is a good one.

Each piece created contains an element of rare Irish gold, the very same as was used by our ancestors 2,000 years ago. According to the World Gold Council, just one in every 5 million pieces of jewellery made in 2016 will be made from Irish gold, making these pieces precious indeed. Cunningly designed and highly stylish, these pieces are inspired by Ireland's rich tapestry of history, culture, art and folklore. Both heritage and contemporary designs are combined in the collection, to create pieces that are truly original. Best of all, perhaps, is the fact that the gold is ethically mined, in Omagh, Co Tyrone, under license. This guarantees not only its purity and quality but also the distinctly Irish provenance, and every piece is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. This is the kind of story we want to tell.

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