Rhinegold Photo credit: Pádraig Grant
Andrea Valfre and Rory Dunne in Falstaff Chronicles as part of Wexford's 2020 online festival

Francis Muzzu

Review: Wexford Festival Opera 2020

9:41, 29th October 2020

Wexford Festival Opera 2020: The Festival in the air
Available to watch online

Rosetta Cucchi is the artistic director of the Wexford Festival, and watching her cleverly curated online presentation for 2020 is a joy. I wonder whether the current Covid-19 crisis has done Wexford a curious favour – more people are likely to watch the festival online than would attend in person, and I urge you to be one of them.

The website is simple to navigate and enjoyable riches abound. With an overriding theme of Shakespeare, an obvious choice is to watch Verdi’s Falstaff, performed by accomplished young artists from the newly founded Wexford Factory. The twist is that each scene is a stand-alone episode, and its continuous narrative with its emphasis on personal relationships within a familiar location works like a soap opera in biteable chunks. It’s fun!

A darker work is Andrew Synnott’s short new opera, What Happened to Lucrece, based on Shakespeare’s poem. Filmed with three endings, the viewer can vote for tragic, farcical or romantic. A gala concert, Remote Voices, is a patchwork of performances from around the world, the singers all alumni of the festival. A stellar bunch they are too: Juan Diego Flórez, Ermonela Jaho, Joseph Calleja, Angela Meade and Daniela Barcellona all appeared in Wexford and are happy to contribute. There are films of operatic pop-ups around the town, interviews with Jaho, Graham Vick and Antonio Pappano, and lectures to sink your teeth into.

Three moments sum up the joyousness of the whole event. Soprano Celine Byrne gives a satisfying recital, upstaged only by a persistent fly which causes much mirth. Her pianist is Cucchi, who pops up everywhere – directing, playing, auditioning, explaining, and best of all presenting. She hosts the gala concert with RTÉ presenter Marty Whelan and they threaten to upstage the singers at times. They are hysterical, working off each other with glee, and should take the show on the road. And the final pop-up is the Factory students taking a bow with ‘One Singular Sensation’ from A Chorus Line against the dramatic backdrop of Wexford’s harbour. Perfect!

Wexford Festival Opera’s The Festival in the air is available to watch for free via Wexford’s website or YouTube channel

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