The home of the internationally recognised Wexford Festival Opera was last night named as Ireland’s only National Opera House at a ceremony marking the launch of this year’s 12-day festival.
The new designation for the Wexford Opera House, which opened in 2008, means Ireland will no longer be the only country in the EU not to have a national opera house.
The traditional fireworks display got the festival underway last night on Wexford’s quays and the town will be thronged for the next 12 days for the 63rd running of the ever-popular event.
The announcement of the renaming of the opera house was made by Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, at the festival's official opening.
Ms Humphreys said she was delighted to give her “full support to the renaming of Wexford Opera House as the National Opera House. I have asked my officials to work with Wexford and the Arts Council to put this into effect, in recognition of Wexford’s position as the home of Ireland’s only custom-built opera house.”
Almost 90 per cent of the 21,500 tickets which were put on sale for 50 different performances at the festival – from large-stage operas to lunchtime recitals – were reported sold by last night. “We’re about 10 per cent up on last year which we’re very happy about,” the festival’s chief executive David McLoughlin said.
“We’re pretty close to hitting our box office targets and going beyond that. It’s very encouraging because we’re almost booked out for all 12 of the main opera shows and that would be the first time we’ve done that in a number of years.”
The international audience remains strong with about one-third of sales to visitors from abroad.
The festival is estimated to be worth about €8.5 million to the Wexford region.
Last night's opening was marked by a performance of Salomé, a French operatic version of Oscar Wilde's play, composed by Antoine Mariotte.
Salomé is one of three main-stage operas at the festival, along with the comic opera Don Bucefalo by Antonio Cagnoni and the European premiere of the Pulitzer prize-winning opera, Silent Night by Kevin Puts.