Kilkenny Arts Festival 2019: Rough Magic does Shakespeare, Nathalie Stutzmann does Bach

Festival unveils programme for this year’s festival, which runs from August 8th to 18th

Two new collaborations with Rough Magic Theatre Company and a promenade production of Thomas Kilroy's novel The Big Chapel staged in the town of Callan, where it is set, are among the theatrical highlights of the programme for this year's Kilkenny Arts Festival, which was announced today.

As always, the festival, which runs from August 8th to 18th, features an impressive range of classical music, much of it performed in St Canice's Cathedral. Highlights include Kilkenny debuts for international stars such as the contralto and conductor Nathalie Stutzmann, the pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk and the violinist and conductor Thomas Zehetmair. Beethoven, Brahms, Bach and Mussorgsky are among the composers featured. The Irish Chamber Orchestra and Crash Ensemble will also perform, while the acclaimed Irish actor Ciarán Hinds will collaborate with the Fews Ensemble for a performance of Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale.

In addition to classical, there will be appearances from a range of Irish and international musicians, including Martin Hayes and Cathal Coughlan.

The collaborations with Rough Magic on two new productions are a contemporary staging of Shakespeare's comedy Much Ado about Nothing, performed at St Kieran's College, and Cleft, by Fergal McElherron, a "dark, visceral, folkloric tale about one family's unrelenting will to survive", directed by Lynne Parker and starring Simone Kirby and Penny Layden.

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Asylum Productions' The Big Chapel is based on Kilroy's fictionalised retelling of the events surrounding the notorious "Callan schools affair" in the late 19th century. The radical adaptation sees the people of Callan, supported by a team of professional theatre artists, retelling their own story, using the town as its stage. This will be accompanied by a programme of events exploring the impact of Kilkenny on Kilroy's work, the unique challenges of staging the production in Callan and an architecture project that reimagines the town's regeneration and redevelopment as a pilot town for Project Ireland 2040.

The walls of Kilkenny Castle will be lit up by a light show, with panoramic viewing at its rose garden. The show will also partially viewable from vantage points across the city, with the local radio station KCLR providing the offsite soundtrack.

The Butler Gallery, in association with the festival, is presenting the first exhibition in Ireland by the New York-based artist Amy Cutler, whose paintings and pencil-on-paper works are whimsical allegories illustrating the destructive efforts of the unrealistic expectations that cultures impose on women.

The spoken-word programme includes readings from the festival's poet-in-residence, Don Peterson, and the young artist Mícheál "Moley" O'Súilleabháin; while the Belfast poet Cherry Smyth, along with the composer Ed Bennett and the singer Lauren Kinsella, brings her Famished project to the Parade Tower.

And the annual Hubert Butler lecture will given by Fergal Keane, the BBC's Africa editor, on war and peace in the modern era.

The full programme is at kilkennyarts.ie.