The Wexford Festival Opera
is an opera festival that takes place in the town of Wexford
in South-Eastern Ireland during the months of October and November.
Festival origins under Tom Walsh, 1951 to 1966
The origins of the opera Festival lie in a visit to Ireland in November 1950 by Sir Compton Mackenzie
, the founder of the magazine The Gramophone
, and an erudite writer on music, who gave a lecture to the Wexford Opera Study Circle. Mackenzie suggested the group should stage an opera in their own theatre, the Theatre Royal
(subsequently the Festival's permanent venue until 2005), a theatre which he felt was eminently suited to the production of certain operas.
The result was that a group of opera lovers (including Dr. Tom Walsh who was to become the Festival's first Artistic Director) planned a "Festival of Music and the Arts" (as the event was first called) from 21 October to 4 November 1951. The highlight was a production of the 19th Century Irish composer Michael Balfe
's 1857 The Rose of Castile,
a little-known opera which had also been mentioned by James Joyce
in a striking pun. (Balfe is probably best known for The Bohemian Girl).
Setting itself aside from the well-known operas during its early years placed Wexford in a unique position in the growing world of opera festivals, and this move was supported by well-known critics such as the influential Desmond Shawe-Taylor
of The Sunday Times,
who communicated what was happening each Autumn... Read More