Tuesday, 2 November 2010

What's odd in Wexford ?

For sixty years, the Wexford Opera Festival has pioneered operas rarely heard anywhere else. Serious opera goers, prepared to take a chance on rarities. But a tiny house in distant Ireland isn't a money spinner so compromises have to be made. The question is, what compromises ?

Here's Andrew Clark in the Financial Times : "The job of artists is to dream dreams - and then to find the resources to realise them. When cutbacks kick in, it's money managers who call the tune, and the first casualty is artistic experiment......Wexford has saddled itself with a sugar-sweet aesthetic that sits ill with its reputation as a connoisseur´s haven"

He's referring to a new opera commisioned in St Louis Missouri, based on a Roald Dahl story. Conceptually there's no reason why children's stories shouldn't make good opera (Hansel and Gretel, La Cenerentola) but artistically this one does not seem promising. It's great prestige for the composer to be showcased at Wexford, and the opera will probably do well in St Louis with a generalist audience (and kids). But is it a mismatch at Wexford ? Some of the operas Wexford has staged are obscure for very good reasons but the USP is that sophisticated audiences like exploring specialist repertoire. Casual visitors aren't going to make the trek to rural Ireland so it might not be good business in the long run.

Please read the full story in the Financial Times here and a long, detailed review of the  productions, in Opera Today here.

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