It’s that time of the year again in Wexford, when the town comes alive like no other.
You can already sense it now – the Opera Festival is almost here. In a matter of days the hotels will be full and the streets will be buzzing again from early in the morning until late at night.
Anticipation is building ahead of Friday night’s launch, with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny coming to town to do the honours on the quay. Mr Kenny will be one of just many visitors to Wexford during the festival, which runs from Friday, October 21, to Saturday, November 5.
Tickets are selling very well for the Opera Festival’s main events and almost 40 per cent of those tickets are going to people who live overseas, highlighting the popularity of this internationally renowned festival, now in its 60th year.
It’s estimated that the festival will attract some 20,000 visitors and give the Wexford area an economic boost of somewhere in the region of €8 million, which is hugely significant for a relatively small town. People won’t just come from abroad, they will come from all over Ireland. The locals will be out in force too.
On that note, it is worth pointing out that Wexford Opera Festival was founded by a small group of volunteers and only became the renowned international event it is today through the hard work, enthusiasm and vision of Wexford people working for no personal profit.
The spirit of volunteerism that existed in 1950 is not just alive and well in Wexford, it remains essential to pull off the smooth running of the Opera Festival, possibly even more so these days given the scale of it, and a huge band of locals will once again be lending a hand this year.
Everyone knows the importance of the festival and, it seems, everyone enjoys it too. The town is completely transformed and – even in recessionary times – the mood is lifted. You can’t put a price on that.
The Irish Independent had a nice piece on the festival last weekend, talking to Nora Liddy, whose father was a member of the founding committee, and the festival’s current Artistic Director David Agler.
The fun begins on Friday with the launch on the quay, which is always punctuated by a spectacular fireworks display. Mr Kenny is set to officially launch the 60th Wexford Opera Festival at 7 p.m. with the fireworks display set to begin at 7.30 p.m.
The entertainment on the quayfront begins at 4.30 p.m. and there are a number of great acts set to entertain the huge crowd expected to gather for the occasion, including Cork City Ballet, Oyster Lane Theatre Group (featured in the photo at the top of this post) and Extreme Rhythm.
Of course, the operas themselves also get underway at the magnificent Wexford Opera House (which just by itself is worth visiting if you’ve never been), with “La Cour de Célimène” beginning at 8 p.m. “Maria” follows on Saturday night and “Gianni di Parigi” on Sunday, with the three operas running until the close of the festival on Saturday, November 5.
You can check out Wexford Opera Festival’s site for full details on the three operas and all the other exciting events they have lined up this year, from lunchtime recitals to evening cabarets.
However, the great thing about Wexford Opera Festival is how inclusive it is and this is due, in no small part, to the Wexford Fringe Festival, which runs in tandem with it. You don’t have to like – or care about – opera to enjoy festival time in Wexford.
This year there are over 250 Fringe Festival events over 17 days (it runs just a little bit longer than the Opera Festival!) and there’s lots to look forward to.
The wide range of events include live gigs, theatrical performances, photography and art exhibitions, literary recitals, as well as dance, craft, children’s and street events… the list goes on for a while! You can check out exactly what’s on here or for updates follow the Fringe Festival on Twitter @wexfringefest
Personally, I can’t wait to get into town early on Saturday morning and start out on an Opera Festival Odyssey, taking my time as I make my way through the many excellent art and photography exhibitions, as well as enjoying all the weird and wonderful people and events you inevitably stumble upon when you wander through the historic and atmospheric streets of Wexford as it shows itself off to the world.