The retiring artistic director of Wexford Festival Opera, David Agler took his final bow on stage in the National Opera House on Sunday night before being honoured by the Borough District Council at a civic reception in the Talbot Hotel.
As the curtain came down on the 68th Festival with a double bill performance of La Cucina and Adina, the audience joined with the cast and company in singing Old Lang Syne and an emotional Mr. Agler formally passed the baton to his successor and longstanding associate Rosetta Cucchi.
Thanking the 'volunteer core' of the Festival for everything they do, Mr. Agler said 'thank you for the friendship you have given me over these many years'.
Ms. Cucchi said she was 'honoured to succeed David who has been a great mentor and a great friend'.
'I hope I will be able to give to Wexford what Wexford has given to me over the years', she said.
Afterwards, hundreds of people attended the civic reception which was specially combined with the annual voluntary workers' after-party, to celebrate the end of a successful Festival and honour the departing artistic director who spent 15 successful years at the helm.
The Mayor of Wexford Cllr. George Lawlor told the many volunteers present that without their contribution, the 'annual miracle' that is Wexford Festival would not be possible.
'On behalf of the people of Wexford, I want to thank you for the wonderful work you do', said the Mayor who appeared in an Opera Festival production of Puccini's Edgar as a boy soprano in 1980.
Cllr. Lawlor thanked the volunteers for 'allowing us to gate-crash your final night party' to hold the special civic celebration for Mr. Agler who became 'an enthusiastic member of the Wexford community' during his time here.
'Your passion for Wexford Festival led to productions that will be remembered by opera fans around the world', he said.
The Mayor said Mr. Agler had been a linchpin to the Opera Festival during dark days following the sudden death of the former CEO Jerome Hynes and brighter times such as the opening of the National Opera House in High Street.
'We wish you well as you head home after 52 years on the road and we wish Rosetta every success in the coming years. We wish you every joy as you return home and reflect on a career of excellence', he told Mr. Agler who grew up in Indiana, USA and lives in Canada.
Mr. Agler offered his 'deepest thanks to the people of Wexford.'
The thing that will be most precious to me was my relationship to this town', he said.
Both he and the former Artistic Director Elaine Padmore who attended the Festival over the weekend, 'would say that the happiest days of our lives were the days in Wexford', he added.
2019 Wexford Festival Opera Volunteer of the Year, Eleanor White spoke on behalf of the voluntary workers and thanked the Mayor for hosting the function.
'There are over 400 of us and I am very privileged to speak of behalf of them tonight. I am very proud to be a volunteer of the Festival'. she said.
This year's Festival ran for 13 consecutive days with 41 public events, most of which were sold out.
Millions of people throughout the world were treated to a taste of the award-winning event through a live stream of Antonio Vivaldi's Dorilla in Tempe on Saturday night via rte.ie/culture and a live national and international radio broadcast by RTE lyric fm and the European Broadcasting Union.
Dorilla in Tempe was also live-streamed into three Irish Irish cinemas.
The public can continue to enjoy a taste of the Opera Festival during November on Opera Night with Paul Herriot on Saturdays on RTE lyric fm at 7 p.m.