1. Maria by Roman Statkowski - Wexford Festival Opera 2011

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    Wexford Festival Opera, 22, 28, 31 October, 4 November. www.wexfordopera.com An old tale with contemporary relevance: a father who wants power and wealth rather than a happy marriage for his son tries to change the course of events through murder. True love that reaches beyond death and outwits evil. Roman Statkowski is regarded as one of the most important Polish composers before Szymanowski. He was a composition teacher in Warsaw when he entered a competition in 1903 to compose an opera inspired by Antoni Malczewski’s 1825 epic Romantic poem Maria (Ukrainian Tale). Statkowski wrote his own libretto as well as composing the music, and won the competition with Maria. Although it was successfully performed in Warsaw in 1906 it has been performed only a few times since then. The music is in the grand symphonic style of the 19th century Russian masters, but with an almost Wagnerian use of leitmotif that connects characters, action, emotion and memory. Statkowski studied with Rubinstein at St Petersburg and was influenced by Mussorgsky, Richard Strauss and Pfitzner. The love that Maria and her husband Waclaw share is opposed by Waclaw’s father who causes Maria to be murdered in order that Waclaw may marry a woman of much greater wealth and status. This is contrasted with the love that Maria’s father has for his child. Waclaw determines to kill his father for ordering his wife’s death, but Maria’s ghost appears, to stay his hand. Waclaw kills himself instead, and musically this enabled Statkowski to transform the gothic ‘Ukrainian Tale’ of the original poem into an operatic Liebestod, with Waclaw dying for love.

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    • An Introduction to Wexford Festival Opera

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      Treasure is found in the most unlikely places…. For sixty years now many hundreds of thousands of people have made a pilgrimage to Wexford Festival Opera in search of buried operatic treasure. Wexford is a charming seaside town on Ireland’s southeast coast and since 1951 this town has hosted what has become known as one of the world’s most remarkable festivals. Wexford Festival Opera prides itself in giving new life to unjustly neglected operas, introducing artists and audiences to the forgotten masterpieces. And it does this in high quality productions which annually delight both critics and audiences alike. But far from being satisfied with presenting three productions each year, also on offer is a packed programme of morning events, lunchtime concerts, afternoon ShortWorks and recitals and late night revues. As if this wasn’t enough, a vibrant Fringe Festival offers everything from art exhibitions through to singing and swinging pubs And throughout all this, there is the remarkable camaraderie engendered by the warmth and intimacy of Wexford town itself. From the brand new Wexford Opera House seating just over 770, the 350 strong volunteer corps ready to welcome you to Wexford, to the hotels, bars and restaurants along the High, Main, and side streets of this Viking town, Wexford is a town which is truly taken over by the Festival. There’s something in the air that quickens everyone’s pulse – a common heartbeat of expansive good feeling and heightened sensibility that brings people back to Wexford again and again. The Wexford Festival Opera has been running since 1951, playing a central role in the cultural life of Ireland, in the world of Opera and Arts internationally. From small and humble beginnings it has achieved world-wide success and critical acclaim by demonstrating passion, innovation and a willingness to lead audiences and artists into neglected territories to explore the rich vein of operatic work worldwide.

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      • La Cour de Célimène by Ambroise Thomas - Wexford Festival Opera 2011

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        Wexford Festival Opera - 21, 27, 30 October, 3 November 2011. A hurt and humiliated woman takes her revenge on men, breaking their hearts while protecting her own. The only way to a happy marriage, she says, is to forego love. The hugely surprising thing about La Cour de Célimène is that it has not been performed since it was first produced at the Opéra-Comique in Paris in 1855. Ambroise Thomas (1811-1896), who is best known for his opera Mignon (first performed in 1866 and performed at Wexford in 1986), spent several years in Rome during the 1830s where he immersed himself in the music of the leading Italian opera composers, Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti. Their influence is evident in La Cour de Célimène, which is an opera comique, written in French and containing both spoken and sung passages. The neglect of La Cour de Célimène for nearly a century and a half is difficult to understand, for it is generously endowed in every important area: attractive music, interesting orchestration, good ensemble writing, spectacular vocal solos, drama and duels, a clever and witty plot . . . this is an opera of wide appeal, which glitters with French sophistication and elegance. The character of Célimène, the flirtatious widowed Countess, dominates the opera. She is determined to make men fall in love with her, for her late husband’s infidelities caused her such distress that she wants to take her revenge on all men. Her heartless and cynically-flirtatious goings-on with her twelve suitors and her latest toy-boy – each of whom is convinced that she loves only him – are contrasted with her disapproving sister, the Baroness. The drama increases as events take several unexpected turns. www.wexfordopera.com

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        • Gianni di Parigi by Gaetano Donizetti - Wexford Festival Opera 2011

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          23, 29 October, 2 & 5 November www.wexfordopera.com It’s a good idea to know the woman you’re going to marry – and it’s a clever woman who sees what the man’s getting up to! Donizetti is one of the most frequently-performed composers at Wexford and Gianni di Parigi is the fifteenth of his operas to be staged during the sixty years of the Festival. It is one of Donizetti’s least-known works and was written in 1831 in a fruitless attempt to get a well-known singer to perform it in Paris so as to make Donizetti’s name better known. The first performance was to be a pirated one in La Scala in 1839, put on against Donizetti’s wishes. The story of Gianni di Parigi derives from a popular 15th century romans de chevalerie about the heir to the throne of France, the Dauphin. He is betrothed to the Princess of Navarre, but they have never met, and he wants to see her for himself before they get married, to find out if she is really as good and beautiful as he has been told. So he disguises himself as a wealthy burgher and goes to an inn which the Princess has reserved for herself and her entourage on their journey to Paris for her marriage. The disguised Dauphin insists on staying at the inn himself, bribes the innkeeper, commandeers the food and drink and is then able to ask the Princess to dine with him. The Princess sees through the plot and is well aware of the burgher’s true identity, but she thinks highly of his enterprise, goes along with the ruse and all ends very happily.

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          • The Orchestra & Chorus of Wexford Festival Opera

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            Since David Agler’s appointment as Artistic Director in 2005, he has set out to achieve three major artistic goals: the formation of the Wexford Festival Orchestra, established in 2006, the opening of the Wexford Opera House in 2008 and the establishment of a Wexford Festival Chorus, made up of rising young talent from Ireland and across Europe. Commenting on his latest artistic development, David Agler said, “I am particularly satisfied that the Festival will now have a chorus to call its own. Singers, directors and conductors come and go. The musical backbone of any fine opera house is its chorus and orchestra. We have now achieved this goal in Wexford and I would like to think that the establishment of the Wexford Festival Chorus and Orchestra will be my lasting contribution to the Festival.”

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