‘Shakespeare is for life, not just for the Leaving Cert’

Highlights of Kilkenny Arts Festival announced for the medieval city

Midsummer is scheduled for late summer in Kilkenny this year. This is not a strange seasonal blip: A Midsummer Night's Dream in the city's Castle Yard will be one of the highlights of August's Kilkenny Arts Festival.

The festival production with Rough Magic Theatre will be a return of Shakespeare in the Castle Yard to the festival, with a new production created for the yard and directed by Lynne Parker. The organisers promise it will offer "outrageous proof that Shakespeare is for life, not just for the Leaving Cert".

Festival director Eugene Downes will today announce some early highlights of its 45th year, with the full programme to be released in June. The city's historic spaces feature strongly in several festival events.

The music highlights build on the festival's reputation for classical music and include a series of "Brahms in the Afternoon", with chamber works of the great Romantic composer in the intimate St John's Priory at lunchtimes – including piano works by Finghin Collins and organ preludes by Malcolm Proud.


"Later Beethoven" is an evening series by resident festival orchestra Irish Chamber Orchestra and guests, juxtaposing music from the composer's later years with 21st century compositions.

Rising stars

The first Irish staging of a baroque masterpiece will see Monteverdi's The Return of Ulysses as a festival production with Opera Collective Ireland. Tony Award-winning director Patrick Mason directs the world-renowned early music ensemble Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, conducted by Christian Curnyn, with a cast of some rising operatic stars including Raphaela Mangan and Gyula Nagy.

Actor Stephen Rea will perform in New York Time, Derek Mahon's epic poetic sequence in a new musical setting by Neil Martin. New York Time is a personal poetic sequence drawing on Mahon's years living in Manhattan.

Mr Downes said: “Whatever your previous experience of the arts, there’s something for everyone, young and old, day and evening, indoors and out, with opportunities to experience heart-stopping artworks and world-renowned artists in what I believe are some of the most magical performance spaces in Ireland.”

Details of the first announcements will be on kilkennyarts.ie on Thursday April 26th with tickets on sale at 1pm

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey is a features and arts writer at The Irish Times