Review: Return of Don Quichotte to Wexford worth the wait

First performed in Wexford in 1965, the return of Don Quichotte was well worth waiting for, writes Cathy Desmond.

Wexford Festival Opera rarely revisits a work. Until this year only one opera, Don Pasquale, was revived in the near seven-decade history. Retiring artistic director David Agler opened his final season with Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

The opera based on the Cervantes novel was first performed in Wexford in 1965 during the tenure of the founding artistic director, Tom Walsh.

Curiously, both operas feature a deluded old man in the main role and offer a dream show case opportunity for the bass voice more usually relegated to supporting roles.

The famous Russian bass Chaliapin sang the role of Don Quichotte at the premiere in Monte Carlo. In Wexford, a fine young bass, Goderdzi Janelidze from Georgia gave a touching portrayal of the knight errant with Icelandic baritone Olafur Sigurdarson hamming it up wonderfully as his loyal buddy Sancho.

Director Rodula Gaitanou’s handsome production is visually spectacular and effectively balances both the comedy and pathos. The duo sally forth not on steeds but on decrepit motorcycles. Beautifully lit skyscapes frame the middle acts.

Goderdzi Janelidze & Aigul Akhmetshina in Don Quichotte by Massenet as part of Wexford Festival Opera at the National Opera House.
Goderdzi Janelidze & Aigul Akhmetshina in Don Quichotte by Massenet as part of Wexford Festival Opera at the National Opera House.

The windmills are impressive giant metal structures and in a good old-fashioned coup-de-theatre, the knight is hoisted in the air on a wire harness.

Russian mezzo soprano Aigul Akhmetshina impressed as Dulcinée and looked fabulous in a wardrobe of Spanish style dresses. There was real menace in Henry Grant Kerswell's raspy delivery of the Bandit King’s spoken lines.

Kerry native Gavan Ring, appearing in his first tenor role at Wexford, played Juan with braggadocio. The 24-strong chorus filled out the staging with animated presence and secure harmonies.

In the pit, the orchestra under Timothy Myers was superb, delivering Massenet’s sumptuous score with a thrilling range of dynamics. We heard the quietest pianissimos and startling whoosh of crescendos.

There was splendid solo work from string and wind principals throughout and Adrian Mantu’s elegiac cello solo preface to Don Quichotte’s death bed scene was a highlight.

Tuesday, October 29, and Friday, November 1; Wexford Festival Opera runs until Sunday, November 3

More on this topic

Five things to do for the week aheadFive things to do for the week ahead

A Question of Taste: Irene O'MaraA Question of Taste: Irene O'Mara

The depths of love: Ballet Ireland founder talks 21 years in business and touring Swan LakeThe depths of love: Ballet Ireland founder talks 21 years in business and touring Swan Lake

Scene and Heard: Music, gig and entertainment news Scene and Heard: Music, gig and entertainment news

More in this Section

Working Life: 'I catch the quiet 6:15 train, a place to gather my thoughts and plan my day'Working Life: 'I catch the quiet 6:15 train, a place to gather my thoughts and plan my day'

Natural Health: 'Every winter I get a nasty sinus infection'Natural Health: 'Every winter I get a nasty sinus infection'

Jamie Oliver: ‘About 3/10 of our family meals are idyllic – that’s normal’Jamie Oliver: ‘About 3/10 of our family meals are idyllic – that’s normal’

How to create a calm, tranquil home – according to The White Company’s Chrissie RuckerHow to create a calm, tranquil home – according to The White Company’s Chrissie Rucker


Latest Showbiz

All Together Now have announced Iggy Pop will be headlining the festival's third year for his first Irish performance in 12 years.Iggy Pop's first Irish performance in 12 years will be headlining All Together Now 2020

British boxer Tyson Fury has said he wants to train with Ireland's own Conor McGregor.Tyson Fury: 'I want to train with Conor McGregor'

The star said he accepted the break-out role of Edward Cullen because he thought the film was ‘very indie’.Robert Pattinson explains why he thought Twilight was a ‘weird’ story

The biggest night in music will take place in January.Host announced for 2020 Grammy Awards

More From The Irish Examiner