FOLLOWING on from the weighty efforts of Wagnerian tragedy and John Adams’ take on 20th century American politics, Wide Open Opera has opted for something light and sparkling for their latest production.
Dashed off in a hurry by a twenty-something Rossini, the odds seemed long on his comic opera,, sticking around for two weeks never mind two centuries after its premiere.
The opening night in Rome in 1816 was not a success. Giovanni Paisiello had already composed a popular version. The audience, egged on by supporters of his more established rival, hissed and jeered the young upstart’s efforts. However, the second night audience loved it. Within a week, Rossini was the toast of Rome.
Two hundred years later, Paisiello’s version is a footnote in history while Rossini’sremains untoppled as the most celebrated comic opera in the canon. The production, produced by WOO in association with Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, is directed by Michael Barker-Caven and will showcase major Irish and international operatic talent.
Playing the demanding title role is baritone Gavan Ring. Figaro is hardly ever off stage and the musical and dramatic stamina required is immense. The Cahersiveen native comes fresh from playing the role for Opera North in the UK, garnering the sort of rave reviews that would make the most seasoned star blush, lauded not only for the quality of his voice but also his comic flair.
So how did a football obsessed lad from the Kingdom find his way to being a leading light on the international operatic stage? Ring describes his school days as being an eclectic mix of GAA and traditional music with football fitted in around céili band practice.
Interestingly, he can recall vividly the first time he heard an operatic voice. “I was about five years old and my mother was playing a tape of the three tenors in the car. I was spellbound. The next day I was up at all hours trying to mimic Pavarotti!”
Further encouragement came from his late grandmother, a member of the Radio Éireann Singers in the 1950s. At 12 years old, he got a scholarship to Schola Cantorum at St Finian’s, Mullingar where he began voice training.
Despite the precocious Pavarotti impersonations, a career in the classroom beckoned, one that would allow him to combine work with continuing to play football. “I kept up my studies in singing while at St Pat’s with Mary Brennan who was the most fantastic teacher. It was she who made me realise that I might be able to have a crack at being a full time opera singer.”
With a teaching qualification under his belt, Ring went back to college, throwing himself into vocal studies. He went on to distinguish himself as a multiple prize winner and the youngest doctoral graduate in performance to date at RIAM.
Joining Ring in the Barber cast are Irish mezzo Tara Erraught as Rosina. Although a regular star turn at A-list European houses, this will be her Irish operatic debut.
Also making an Irish debut is American tenor Tyler Nelson as Almaviva. It will be the first opera production to be seen at both Wexford and the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin, and really has the makings of something special.
‘The Barber of Seville’ is at National Opera House, Wexford on April 16 and BGE Theatre, Dublin, on April 20, 22, 23.
I was about five years old and my mother was playing a tape of the three tenors in the car. I was spellbound