Opera Review: Dubliners, Wexford Festival Opera

One of the strengths of Wexford Festival Opera is the variety of events running throughout the days to entertain visitors to the seaside town.

Sometimes the real gems are found among the afternoon short works that serve as a trimming to the main house productions.

Wexford trades on its rare opera tag and it is seldom that we hear opera in English or work by Irish composers. 

This year’s premiere of Dubliners at White’s Hotel, scored by Andrew Synnott with a libretto by Arthur Riordan based on Joyce’s short stories, was rare and wonderful and my highlight of the 2017 festival.

Opera Theatre Company’s co-production of Dubliners with Wexford Festival features a terrific ensemble of six young singers and a piano quintet led by Andrew Synnott. 

In Counterparts, Kerry-born bass-baritone Cormac Lawlor brought the dysfunctional alcoholic clerk, Farrington, vividly to life and made me feel a real empathy for the frustrated anti-hero.

Arthur Riordan’s reduction of the text to rhyming couplet gleamed as though newly minted and Synnotts’ writing was sure-footed and witty. 

The move from the office to the pub was underscored by a brasher bar room style in the piano part and the arrival of English strong man so well played by Anna Jeffers was signalled by a subtle change in accompaniment to suggest an outsider.

In The Boarding House, Cork soprano Emma Nash (pictured) shines as the daughter who acquiesces to marriage with Andrew Gavin’s unwitting Bob. 

David Howes imposes as her sinister brother ‘handy with his mitts’ who acts as narrator.

Some Wexford operas, one is glad to encounter just once. Dubliners is one I hope to hear again.

Star Rating: 5/5

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