How was it for you? Cathy Desmond selects her highlights of 2018

Cathy Desmond

Live events

  • Patrick Mason’s production of The Marriage of Figaro for Irish National Opera seen in Wexford was outstanding, the largely Irish cast all in sparkling form.
  • A superb 15 piece pit band added panache to INO’s sassy opening production of Thomas Ades’ Powder Her Face.
  • In Munich, it was good to see Clare tenor Dean Power shine in the lead role of Mozart’s Magic Flute at the beautifully renovated Gartnerplatz theatre.
  • At the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival, Stanley Clarke played a double bass like I have never heard it played before. Clarke’s band included the astonishing young jazz violinist, Evan Garr at a memorable concert at the Everyman Theatre.
  • Deirdre Gribbin’s song cycle Kindersang, based on poems of Kindertansport refugee Lotte Kramer, was compelling listening at West Cork Chamber Music.
  • Waterford Light Opera Festival is sadly but a memory but I rejoiced to see musicals back on the stage of the Theatre Royal. South Eastern Theatre Group brought us a fine production of The Beautiful Game set in Belfast in the 1970s.

Best Interview

It was fun meeting soprano Tara Erraught in her dressing room at the Bavarian State Opera, Munich.

Greek opera director Rodula Gaitanou gave fascinating insights into the business of moulding her opening night verismo double bill when I met her amid the clink of coffee cups and lively conversation at Wexford Opera House Cafe.

You couldn’t but be won over by the energy and enthusiasm of composer John O’Brien when I visited rehearsals for his opera The Nightingale and the Rose at St Luke’s Crypt in Cork city.

Best book

Ina Boyle, 1889-1967 A Composer’s Life by Ita Beausang and Seamus de Barra was a fascinating account of an extraordinary life of one of Ireland’s most prolific but little known composers.

Best film

The directors’ presence at screenings added a frisson to several occasions. Ken Wardrop’s Making the Grade following piano students and their teachers was charming at Garter Lane Arts Centre. Watching George Morrison’s iconic film Mise Éire at the same venue with the director in the front row more than 50 years after its release was a highlight of the Imagine Arts Festival.

Best TV

I enjoyed A Very English Scandal, a BBC drama series based around British political events in the 1970s. Hugh Grant was remarkable as the disgraced politician Jeremy Thorpe. An enthralling story crammed into three absorbing episodes.

Best Radio

Stephen Travers interview with Pat Kenny about the Miami Showband Massacre told an appalling story with clarity and eloquence that rooted me to the spot.

Jeremy Paxman is usually heard grilling politicians but his interview — The Last Leaf on the Tree on BBC2 — with Joan Baez was delightful. In the wake of the death of folk singer Thom Moore in March, RTÉ replayed Ronan Collins 2013 studio session Still Believing. The rapport between the veteran broadcaster and singer made for engaging albeit poignant listening.


What a shame that Cork Choral Festival were forced into moving from their traditional May bank holiday weekend. It is hard to believe a concert with one solo artist [Ed Sheeran] could not have been accommodated at Páric Uí Chaoimh on a weekend other than the one during which CCF have welcomed thousands of visitors for the 60+ years.

Other highlights

Churches remain the most inclusive spaces in which to hear music. The launch of a new schola cantorum by David Forde, 14th director of music at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Waterford, is an encouraging development in improving standards of sacred music in this Georgian treasure.

The Irish Chamber Orchestra again brought top quality performances to audiences outside of Dublin. The Georgian Large Room in Waterford was a perfect fit for the proportions of the ensemble and the repertoire performed by clarinettist Katherine Spencer.

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