The red carpet was rolled out for guests of the Cork Opera House’s 160th anniversary gala celebration last Saturday evening. The varied show combined Cork nostalgia with class acts, such as Iarla Ó Lionáird, Fiona Shaw (performing poet WB Yeats’ ‘Easter 1916’, with a splendid musical arrangement by John O’Brien), Cara O’Sullivan, ballerina Erina Takahashi and Jimmy McCarthy, who sang his songs ‘No Frontiers’ and ‘Ride On’.
The show opened with the spine-tingling first movement from Seán Ó Riada’s ‘Mise Eire,’ beautifully performed by the orchestra. All the dignity and seriousness of Ó Riada’s composition was followed by the appearance of the ball-hopping MC for the night, Dame Nannie Nellie (aka Frank Mackey), who poked fun at everyone from the city’s new Lord Mayor to a few unfortunates in the audience. But panto dames are best served up at Christmas and Mackey’s constant slagging was overkill.
The much-loved Billa O’Connell recited his monologue ‘The Burning of the Opera House’, set to ‘On The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee’, arranged by O’Brien.
Soprano Cara O’Sullivan went into ‘gas character’ mode with an anecdote about going into the sacristy of a church to change her clothes for a performance. While she is highly personable, singing sonorously and dramatically is what she excels at, and her rendition of ‘Climb Every Mountain’ from The Sound of Music, which was dedicated to the late director Bryan Flynn was particularly moving.
Who would have thought that Irish dancing could be performed to the music of ‘Winter’, from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons? Five male dancers from Prodijig proved it could be done. It was an unexpected delight in an all-round enjoyable show.