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September 5, 2008

Inside Wexford’s giant cello

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The unique attributes of Wexford’s old Theatre Royal as an opera house were its intimacy and eccentricity. Nowhere else in the world could you hear and see an obscure opera being performed in a theatre shoehorned in behind terraced houses on an utterly domestic little street. It was this sense of secrecy that charmed so many visiting opera buffs (such as the late Bernard Levin) when they came to Wexford. It was so far removed from the grandeur of the Palais Garnier in Paris, La Scala in Milan or the Royal Opera House in London, and even more intimate than Glyndebourne. The annual Wexford Festival was a great social event, with the town seemingly taken over by foppish young men in black tie and lovely ladies in ball gowns. And then something awful happened: it was discovered by the corporate sector and, inevitably, this has changed its essential character. The festival, billed by the Reader’s Digest as “Europe’s most enjoyable festival”, has been staged at the Theatre Royal since 1951, apart from the two-year interruption by demolition and construction works when it went to Johnstown Castle. The original theatre was much older, dating from 1832.

The Irish Times

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