When he first encountered Wexford Festival Opera back in 1996, David Agler couldn't have imagined what discoveries he would make about the music, the artists, and most of all, the people of Wexford.
The past 15 years as Artistic Director of Wexford Festival Opera (WFO) have been abundantly busy and, for me at least, they have flown by.
It is hard to believe that during my tenure as the Artistic Director, I presented ninety-two Opera House and ShortWork productions in seven different venues including the venerable Theatre Royal, the Parish Hall, and a Brigadoon-esque summer at Johnstown Castle before landing home in the National Opera House.
Let me also mention the establishment of our own orchestra and chorus, which have contributed immensely to the festival's musical calibre. Two world and four European premieres, ten co-productions with European and American theatres, along with countless concerts, recitals, and lectures.
I am also proud that during my time in Wexford, the Festival has received ten Irish Times Theatre Awards and two International Opera Awards – Best Rediscovered Work for Cristina, regina de Svezia in 2014 and Best Festival in 2017.
In my final year, I brought a distinctly Irish flavour to the programme featuring not just one, but two Irish composers on the O’Reilly Theatre stage of the National Opera House including the world premiere of a newly-commissioned opera by Irish composer Andrew Synnott.
Andrew is the first living Irish composer to have his opera performed as part of the main evening opera programme. La cucina was written as a prequel to Adina by Gioachino Rossini and performed together.
Also, I was delighted to present a concert performance of The Veiled Prophet by the Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford, presented by WFO in association with Heritage Music Productions, founded and produced by pianist and broadcaster, Una Hunt and conducted by David Brophy.
This year’s programme also featured the first Baroque opera to be performed at WFO in over thirty years, Dorilla in Tempe by Antonio Vivaldi. In 1965, WFO presented Don Quichotte by Jules Massenet as the composer’s work had long been neglected after the First World War.
To date, Wexford has produced nine of his operas, many of which have become standard repertoire in the world’s leading opera houses. This year I chose to produce Don Quichotte once again as strangely, it is still rarely performed.
Little did I realise when I first encountered WFO as a young conductor back in 1996 what discoveries I would make about the music, the artists, and most of all, the people of Wexford. All of which make up the warmth and the magic that is Wexford Festival Opera.
If you missed it, watch the magnificent production of Dorilla in Tempe at the Wexford Festival Opera here.