Mairead Buicke on the Music in Monkstown Festival and going from pipe band to Puccini

MAIREAD Buicke, star of the operatic stage and concert platform, reveals that her first ensemble experience was as a member of the Newcastle West Pipe Band. 

Mairead Buicke on the Music in Monkstown Festival and going from pipe band to Puccini

The soprano is gearing up for a concert with pianist Anthony Byrne showcasing operatic heroine roles for the Music in Monkstown Festival in Co Dublin later this month.

“As a member of a major opera company you learn many roles. You put so much work into preparing the music and delving into a character and then you put it away maybe for years. We thought it would be good to put a show together using some of this material.

“As well as singing the arias, I talk to the audience to give some insights into the characters and where the arias fit into the drama. They include some of my favourite repertoire. There are arias by Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini. One of the more unusual items is Tatiana’s letter scene from Tchaikovsksy’s Eugene Onegin, which involved having coaching in Russian.”

The soprano’s first foray into singing was through traditional Irish music and sean-nós. As a teenager, her first formal training came from the late Áine Nic Ghabhann in Killorglin. With a performance degree under Veronica Dunne at RIAM and prizes in the Feis Ceoil and Belvedere Competition to her credit, Buicke arrived at the National Opera Studio in London where she was spotted by the English National Opera.

“It was an amazing experience to be in London. As a young artist, you are under such pressure to learn a lot of new repertoire that you almost don’t have time to soak up the experience,” she says.

Buicke rose to be company principal at ENO and was part of Jonathan Miller’s celebrated production of La Boheme.

“Miller was so funny, and such an inspirational figure” she says.

After a break to have two babies, Buicke is starting to audition again for operatic roles. “Recitals are a good place to get out there and try out these roles. I am looking forward to singing Mimi with Opera in the Open at Castletown House later this month. I loved singing Tosca for Grange Park Opera. I would sing it a hundred times over. Butterfly is such a big role for any soprano. It’s is on my wishlist.”

Meanwhile, Buicke has been busy on the concert platform and will return to sing with the Defence Forces at their gala at the NCH in October

Buicke’s recital partner is her husband, pianist Anthony Byrne. “It is very much give and take when we come to rehearsing. When you work with someone you’re close to, it does bring a different dynamic. Anthony is a wonderful pianist who brings an orchestral colour to his accompaniment.”

The weekend festival was initiated by Monkstown resident John Finucane, principal clarinettist with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. In addition to the five formal recitals, there are post-concert pub jazz sessions and a concert for children.

The venue, Monkstown Parish Church designed by prolific 19th century architect John Semple was a particular favourite of the poet John Betjeman who stayed nearby while working at the British embassy.

  • The Music in Monkstown Festival runs from September 9 to 11. Mairead Buicke and Anthony Byrne perform at Monkstown Parish Church September 10; David Syme’s Living Room Concerts in Castletownbere, September 18

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