One of the most unique events that take place in the heart of Ireland is the two-day Loughcrew Opera Festival, now in its 13th year. The 2012 event took place last weekend set in beautiful gardens of Loughcrew House, Old castle County Meath in a fully decorated marquee.
The choice for this year’s Loughcrew Opera was ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and performed by Opera A La Carte. Figaro is one of the most popular and the of the most performed operas across the world
‘The Marriage of Figaro’ was first performed in Vienna on 1 May 1786. The plot follows on from of The Barber of Seville several years later in time and recounts a single “day of madness” in the palace of the Count Almaviva near Seville, Spain. Rosina is now the Countess; Dr. Bartolo is seeking revenge against Figaro for upsetting his plans to marry Rosina himself; and Count Almaviva has degenerated from the romantic youth of Barber into a scheming, bullying, and skirt-chaser. Having gratefully given Figaro a job as head of his servant-staff, he is now persistently trying to obtain the favours of Figaro’s bride-to-be, Susanna. Constantly finding excuses to delay the civil part of the wedding of his two servants, this is arranged for this very day. Figaro, Susanna, and the Countess conspire to embarrass the Count and expose his scheming. He responds by trying to compel Figaro legally to marry a woman old enough to be his mother, but it turns out at the last minute that she is really his mother. (Summary from Wikipedia)
Although performed in a satirical fashion back in 1786 the ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ must have been quite controversial for it audiences.
This was my first visit to Loughcrew it was interesting to see the level of preparation some of the more seasoned opera goers had gone to. Black tie is usual for such events but many of those attending had arrived in full period costume (there is a prize for the best dressed male and female). Dining wise patrons had the option pre-book outdoor a picnic table and chairs to dine at or you can book a meal in chalet within the grounds. Many had come equipped with their own fold up table, chairs, picnic basket, and wine and in some case even candelabra adding real character to the evening.
Irish weather though poor this year held up reasonably well (it did not rain) making it possible for people to feel comfortable enough to enjoy the surroundings al le carte. With a backdrop of some of the ancient ruins of Loughcrew – Fidget feet one of Ireland’s leading aerial dance Theatre Company performed some amazing aerial acrobatics dance routine in splendid costume, as a pre-opera entertainment. Nearby in the Moroccan tent wine and champagne and some light food were served. Mingling among the crowd were members of the Opera already in costume and adding to the atmosphere of the evening.
As 8 o’clock approached patrons were asked to make their way to the decorated marquee had a capacity of 300 including VIP guests. Musical director for the evening was Susann Stranders accompanied by a wind ensemble. The stage area was well evaluated providing good sight lines for present. The 4 act opera was split by an hour long interval were patrons had the opportunity to have a meal and a drink and enjoy a second performance by Fidget feet with lighting under fading light. Overall it was a very enjoyable evening and setting with Opera A La Carte providing a very entertaining performance of ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ with my favourite performance of the evening Melinda Hughes as the Countess.
For anyone who has seen the Shawshank Redemption (1994) there is a scene in the film when Andy (Tim Robbins) locks himself in Wardens office then puts on a record and broadcasts it to the exercise yard. The voice over of Red (Morgan Freeman) can be heard in the background “I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t wanna know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can’t be expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it”.
Actually in the scene from the Opera the Countess and Suzanne are composing a letter to the Count inviting him to, rendezvous with the Suzanne in order to expose his infidelity. The countess then dresses as Suzanne and takes her place to flush out the Count; a wonderful scene in the opera.
The evening was closed by Emily Naper owner of Loughcrew House who has done incredible work over the years to make this such a popular and unique artistic event.
© Tom Dowling 2012