Weekend of opera to hit the high notes for charity

BEGINNING on Saturday, September 3, Burren House in Kilbrittain, west Cork, will present a weekend of opera, with an innovative combination of Mozart’s The Impresario and Leoncavello’s Pagliacci by the Garden Opera Company.

On Sunday there will be an evening of opera classics with the Ladies’ Chorus of Opera Cork and the City of Cork Male Voice Choir, who will be joined by four international soloists. This is the fourth year of the event and the emphasis is on light opera in a spectacular setting. Proceeds go to charity.

The acclaimed London-based Garden Opera Company, who presented La Traviata in 2010, provide intimate opera in unconventional spaces including parks, urban areas and period houses. Their ethos is community involvement and accessibility. The operas will be sung in English, and this will be Garden Opera’s only appearance in Ireland this year.

Mozart’s Impresario is a one-act comic opera about an impresario and his comic-actor assistant establishing an opera company. They hire a fading diva and an up-and-coming starlet. Sparks fly. The opera was written for a competition sponsored by Emperor Joseph II, which pitched Mozart against rival Italian composer Salieri. Salieri won, but Mozart’s opera remains popular. The Garden Opera Company say their version is “a side-splitting casting-couch comedy teeming with outlandish characters and sexual innuendo.”

Pagliacci is one of the world’s most popular operas and is set among a travelling troupe. The famous clown Canio is jealous of the attention paid to his wife by a fellow member of the group. Passion and tragedy ensue. Pagliacci premiered in 1892 and is the only opera of Leoncavello’s that has enduring popularity. The prelude of Mozart’s light comedy followed by Leoncavello’s darker piece should be intriguing.

On Sunday, the emphasis is on the classics, with the Ladies’ Chorus of Opera Cork and the City of Cork Male Voice Choir joined by four international soloists; James Clerverton, Robert Presley, Adam Tunniclifffe and Rebecca Naomi Watson. Under conductor Frank Buckley, the repertoire will include favourites such as The Chorus of Hebrew Slaves, Anvil Chorus, Peers Chorus and other popular pieces from Strauss, Gilbert and Sullivan and others.

Built in 1790, Burren House is on the site of an old fortification and watch tower and has been renovated by its owners, Michael and Jane Newman. The gardens have been redeveloped and are ideal for opera picnics overlooking the Old Head and Courtmacsherry Bay.

Although her mother came from Dublin, Jane Newman was born in Vancouver. Michael and Jane looked all around Ireland before settling on this location. “We wanted something in the country,” Newman says. “We love being out on the sea and walking along the coastlines, so this seemed perfect. My husband has always been a curious person who likes to meet people, and we always wanted to share this amazing view with other people. It shouldn’t just be available to one or two individuals. We want other people to get the same pleasure from this house and garden that we do. All proceeds for the last few years have gone to charities, including the RNLI and Marymount Hospice in Cork. This year, we will also donate some of the proceeds to The Simon Community.

“There wasn’t any opera in this area when we started and it has proved hugely popular over the last three years,” she says. “It isn’t posh opera; it is very light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek. When all is said and done, this isn’t Covent Garden; but it is sung by really good professional singers and it is a chance to hear some fantastic arias in a beautiful setting.”

Organiser Amy Cahill O’Brien says: “We know that times are difficult, so we are charging €69 for two operas on Saturday, €35 for Sunday and €99 for both days combined, which is considerably less expensive than most opera in Ireland,” O’Brien says. “We will also be selling tickets for a raffle for ten days in a villa in Barbados. The villa, which, as it happens, is next door to Michael Flatley’s own hideaway, was also donated by the Newmans. I believe the weekend is a fun, relaxed way to round off the summer and to give something back at the same time. It does take a lot of effort and organisation, but when it finally gets underway and everyone is enjoying themselves it is all worth it.”

Tickets can be purchased at the Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork Tel — 021-4501673 or www.everymanpalace.com and the Flower Basket Shop in Clonakilty. For more information on the event, see burrenhouse.net

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