Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera

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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 Ulysses 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...
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