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Commentary

22 Apr 2020

Wexford Festival Opera on RTÉ Player: Stanford's The Veiled Prophet available to view online

At a time when more people than ever are turning online to enjoy their favourite opera productions, the first-ever professional performance in English of The Veiled Prophet by Dublin-born composer, Charles Villiers Stanford, is now available to view on the RTÉ Player.

The project presented at last year’s Wexford Festival Opera in association with Heritage Music Productions, founded and produced by international pianist and broadcaster Una Hunt, was a momentous milestone in the quest to recover Irish opera from oblivion and was thus supported by a major grant from the Arts Council of Ireland. The opera was recorded live by RTÉ lyric fm for radio broadcast and was included as part of the European Broadcasting Union Premium Opera Series which is heard by millions of listeners across the globe. This is the first complete presentation to take place in more than 125 years, making it a ‘must-see’ for newcomers to opera and connoisseurs alike.

www.rte.ie/player/movie/ player/131026471997

The opera has other Irish connections in addition to the composer as it is based on part of the enormously successful oriental romance, Lalla Rookh, by Irish poet and national songwriter, Thomas Moore. The production, conducted by David Brophy, was performed by a predominantly Irish cast including soprano Sinéad Campbell-Wallace, tenor Gavan Ring, mezzo-soprano Mairéad Buicke, and bass/baritone John Molloy. The title role is sung by the young Polish baritone, Simon Mechliński and the superb Wexford Festival Chorus is augmented by the Chorus from TU Dublin Conservatoire.

The NYC based Opera News Magazine hailed the opera: “Stanford’s sense of structure and his ear for orchestration are very strong.”

Producer Una Hunt said, “The reawakening of The Veiled Prophet after an absence of more than a century fulfills a personal dream in seeing this magnificent opera spring back to life. Its launch on the RTÉ Player means it can now be appreciated and enjoyed by audiences around the world.”

Aodán Ó Dubhghaill, Managing Director, RTÉ lyric fm, Orchestras, Quartet & Choirs, commented, “As well as being a versatile pianist who has performed concertos with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra, Una Hunt is a leading authority in the field of historic Irish music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. RTÉ lyric fm has worked closely with Una on many projects, across many platforms including radio broadcasts, CDs, books, documentaries and features, to create awareness of the wonderful music-making that took place on the island of Ireland during those centuries. We were delighted when Una approached us to get involved in her latest project, the first-ever performance in English of The Veiled Prophet by Dublin-born composer, Charles Villiers Stanford in performance at last year’s Wexford Festival Opera and we have no doubt that you will enjoy the fruits of her work for many years to come.

David McLoughlin, CEO of Wexford Festival Opera added, “Wexford Festival Opera is built on the artistic foundations of presenting rare and unjustly neglected opera works to national and international audiences, illustrated by it previously winning the award for Best Rediscovered Work at the International Opera Awards. In recent years it has also pioneered, in association with RTÉ, the wider dissemination of opera performances by way of live streaming and web download. Wexford was therefore honoured to have been the location for the staging of this rediscovered opera work of great Irish and international significance. We are equally pleased that one of the highlights of last year’s Festival will be available to view and enjoy by audiences around the world on the RTÉ Player, similar to some of Wexford’s other recent stagings.”

Very few professional performances have been given of Charles Villiers Stanford’s operas in the last century, and many other parts of his musical outlook remain neglected. Mostly remembered these days for his late-Victorian church music, the Anglo-Irish composer enjoyed a full and varied career. Indeed, there is much more to the Dublin-born Stanford (1852-1924) than most modern listeners realise, and in particular, his symphonies, concertos and Irish Rhapsodies are a joy to discover. Stanford was also a prolific opera composer, but recognising the hopelessness of pursuing an operatic career at home, he turned to Germany and it was in Hanover that the first of his ten operas, The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, was premiered in 1881.

Sarah Ryder, Assistant Commissioning Editor, Documentary & Arts at RTÉ also commented, “It’s a real honour for RTÉ to partner with Una Hunt and the brilliant people at Wexford Festival Opera to bring another very special WFO production to audiences in Ireland and overseas on the RTÉ Player. More than ever, in these worrying times, we are seeing how music and the arts are bringing joy and solace to people, and we hope that this gorgeous production of The Veiled Prophet will bring much-needed pleasure and inspiration to many, many households in the weeks and months ahead.”

There are two other WFO productions still available to view on the RTÉ Player, Il bravo by Saverio Mercadante (2018) (https://www.rte.ie/player/find?q=il%20bravo) and Dorilla in Tempe by Antonio Vivaldi (2019) (https://www.rte.ie/player/find?q=dorilla).

Select scenes are also available on the Festival’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/WexfordFestivalOpera

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