Curtain call for Cork, a city proud of its operatic leanings
Cork had the first production of 2014, and features in two successful Arts Council funding applications
This year’s Wexford Festival will introduce works by composers whose very names, I suspect, will be new to most opera lovers. Antoine Mariotte’s Salomé opens the festival, followed by Antonio Cagnoni’s Don Bucefalo. The third work is Kevin Puts’s Silent Night, which had its premiere in 2011 and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012.
Opera Theatre Company’s offerings will be Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (a co-production with Rough Magic), and Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore (a co-production with NI Opera). The Wexford and Opera Theatre Company Arts Council grants for 2014 have not yet been made public, but in 2013 the companies received €1,389,100 and €640,000 respectively.
Cork gets in first
The first opera production of the year was – where else? – in Cork last weekend, when the CIT Cork School of Music presented Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, directed and conducted by John O’Connor, and designed by Lisa Zagoni.
The layout in the school’s Curtis Auditorium was unorthodox. The orchestra was at the back, right in front of the organ case, separated from the set by a gauze curtain. There was a monitor at ground level at the front of the stage to give the singers sight of the conductor’s gestures, and a foldback loudspeaker at the conductor’s feet, presumably to feed him the sound of the voices on stage.
The orchestral playing was spirited but a little rough, though nicely balanced with a rich presence from the wind section, which is always especially rewarding in Mozart. The great benefit was that the voices stood out clearly from the orchestra, even the smaller ones, though the clarity of the words varied greatly from singer to singer and scene to scene. The downside was that tight co-ordination between voices and instruments seemed at times to be in the realm of the impossible. And, whatever the reason, when things got desynchronised, the problem tended to persist.
The major roles were taken by professionals, with Mary Hegarty a dignified Countess, Joe Corbett a thoroughly obnoxious Count, Kim Sheehan an attractive Susanna, and Marc Callanan a reliable Figaro. The set was simple, and the costumes effectively moved the work into the 1920s. The chorus was rich in enthusiastic young voices, but the smaller roles taken by vocal students didn’t really come to life. In that regard, Cork seems to be lagging behind the productions that have come out of the Royal Irish Academy of Music and the DIT Conservatory in Dublin.
Both of those institutions are also in action this month. Lynne Parker’s RIAM production of Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen opened at TCD’s Samuel Beckett Theatre last night. And a DIT double bill of excerpts from Lehár’s Merry Widow and Puccini’s La Bohème, directed by Jennifer Hamilton, is at the NCH on January 23rd.