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Opera, Theater, Ballet

Verdi’s “Don Carlos” Live from Opera de Paris

Verdi’s “Don Carlos” Live from Opera de Paris,

Thurs, Oct 19th 5pm.

All-star cast: Four modern operatic greats: Kaufmann, Yoncheva, Garanca and Abdrazakov.

At least five operas have been based on Friedrich Schiller’s great drama, “Don Carlos”, (which delighted us theatregoers in Dublin about five years ago) and all pale in comparison with Verdi’s great work. Denis Forman awards it an Alpha-Plus, one of only thirteen he gives out in his survey of the greatest operas ever composed. Forman states: – “Carlos” is perhaps Verdi’s finest opera  … the grip of the narrative holds us in a way that is rare in Verdi. … For richness, depth and sheer enjoyability the score of “Carlos” is a phenomenon … the stupendous choral climaxes to Acts 1 and 3 … “Carlos” is the grandest of grand operas and an Alpha-Plus through and through”.

High praise, indeed, but, as an opera lover who came relatively late to an awareness of the glories of this magnificent work (it needs a great production, a fine orchestra and great singers – things lacking in some of the earlier productions I attended), Forman’s praise is fully justified – I well remember a glorious production we had at SGC about six years ago which gave me one of my most thrilling operatic experiences. (A 1958 Covent Garden production costumed and designed by Luchino Visconti is a landmark in this opera’s production history)

Don Carlos












Of the superb quartet of soloists I’ve already listed, I look forward in particular to hearing again Sonya Yoncheva, who we had not so long ago as a thrilling Norma in that ferociously taxing role (it has been called the Hamlet role for sopranos) – maybe comparing hers to Callas’s immortal interpretation of the Druidic Priestess would be pushing it too far, but it was a sheer delight. So, along with the other soloists named above, Verdi’s arias and ensembles should be heard at their marvellous best.

“Don Carlos”, the composer’s twenty-fifth opera, premiered at the Paris Opera on March 11th, 1867, and had a difficult birth involving cuts, rewrites, a long rehearsal period (six months) with the composer walking out of rehearsals at one stage. Although the opera was a success right from the opening night, it went on to be one of the most revised of all operas – but it has long been recognised as one of the genres greatest jewels.

Don Carlos











This beautiful, tumultuous opera is based on real flesh and blood people. Set in France and Spain c1560, it tells of Don Carlos, son of Phillip the 2nd of Spain (he who married Queen Mary of England), who is in love with Elizabeth, his stepmother. They meet and declare their love for each other. A jealous Princes Eboli tells all to the king and all heaven breaks loose (one of Con Houlihan’s gems!) … and on it goes in one of the most Shakespearean of all operas.

“Don Carlos” has to be in my top ten all-time operas; it can provide a sensational night of theatre. Thanks to Eugene and all at SGC, we’re having unforgettable opera productions (e.g. the recent Covent Garden “Magic Flute”) to savour. If you love opera, you will miss it at your peril – it could be one of the musical events of the year. (Please note the early starting time.) (Jim Ryan).

All-time Broadway ‘smash-hit’, “Amadeus” Review

Peter Shaffer’s “Amadeus” is one of the greatest and most popular plays of the second half of the twentieth century – it gave greater currency to the name of W A Mozart and resurrected another name that was once celebrated in the world of music, Antonio Salieri.

Before 1979, few moderns had ever heard the name of Salieri. Yet, two hundred years earlier, at a time when Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had composed over five hundred musical works and had only a few years left to live, his operas were rarely performed – eclipsed in Vienna and elsewhere by the ‘immortal’ operas of Antonio Salieri! And then came “Amadeus”, followed by the Oscar-winning Milos Forman film, and Salieri achieved the fame he had long ago craved for. (The film won eight Oscars – and Maurice Jarre, who won the Oscar for Best Original Musical score, – for “A Passage to India” – later commented:- “I was lucky Mozart wasn’t eligible”; true for him!.)

“Amadeus”, which tells the story of the rivalry between Mozart and his contemporary who was for a time more successful than Mozart, is one of the twentieth century’s most delightful plays. Its plot was inspired by a play by Pushkin which was based on a rumour that Salieri had claimed on his death-bed to have poisoned Mozart – claiming that he did it because of his obsessive jealousy of the divine gifts the granted to the latter. (The claim has never been supported by scholars, although he did hinder the career of his impractical and often unwise colleague.)

The play premiered in 1979 at The National Theatre, directed by Sir Peter Hall with the great Paul Schofield as Salieri, Simon Callow as Mozart and Felicity Kendall as Mozart’’s wife, Constanze. It was a great hit and transferred to The West End. In 1980 it was produced on Broadway, with Ian McKellan as Salieri, Tim Curry as Mozart and Jane Seymour as Constanze. It was nominated for seven ‘Tonys’, winning five; a ‘Tony’ is awarded for “distinguished achievement in US theatre” and is the stage equivalent of an ‘Oscar’. The production ran for an astonishing 1181 performances, which places it in the All-time Broadway Top-20 for straight plays.

I first saw ‘Amadeus’ at The Gate Theatre in 1983, a production that remains a treasured theatrical memory; Alan Stanford, was superb as Salieri, and won that year’s Harvey’s Award for Best Actor.  And up in Ballyduff they still talk glowingly about a 1992 production of the play Directed by the late Bill Canning, featuring Patsy Ahern as Salieri and the recently-deceased Hugh Moynihan as Mozart.

Shaffer has been accused of trivialising Mozart, of presenting him as a vulgar human being, but it’s also true that few have better grasped the glory of his music. At one point he has Salieri say, at the 1786 premiere of Mozart’s miraculous opera, “The Marriage of Figaro”:-

“Trembling, I heard the second Act. The restored third Act! The astonishing fourth! What shall I say to you who will one day hear this last Act for yourselves? You will – because whatever else shall pass away, this must remain”.

And towards the end of the play, as the notes of Mozart’s last Symphony rise to a crescendo, a tortured Salieri’s voice becomes ever more strident as he claps his hands to his aching ears to shut it out :- “Mozart’s music sounded louder and louder through the world! And mine faded completely, till no one played it at all.”

For music-lovers and those without interest in music, this is a delightful play, both funny and heartbreaking by turn. It tells a great story. The London press have given this production some resoundingly positive reviews. It’s at Movies@ Gorey on Thurs, Feb 2nd.  – were it not being screened live, I would be heading to London to see it.  (Jim Ryan).

As You Like It: Play in Movies@Gorey

For One Night Only Thursday, 25th February @ 7.00pm – Book Now

Shakespeare’s glorious comedy of love and change comes to the National Theatre for the first time in over 30 years, with Rosalie Craig (London Road, Macbeth at MIF) as Rosalind. With her father the Duke banished and in exile, Rosalind and her cousin Celia leave their lives in the court behind them and journey into the Forest of Arden. There, released from convention, Rosalind experiences the liberating rush of transformation. Disguising herself as a boy, she embraces a different way of living and falls spectacularly in love.



IL Trovatore (Live): Opera in Movies@Gorey

For One Night Only Thursday, 11th February @ 6.30pm – Book Now

In the aftermath of Rigoletto, Verdi’s sole desire was to do something new. However, he became impatient, angry even, when the project to adapt El Trovador, the play by the Spanish dramatist Antonio García Gutiérrez, aroused only guarded enthusiasm from Salvatore Cammarano, his librettist, and the man to whom Donizetti owed in part the success of Lucia di Lammermoor.
Was it due to the libretto’s inordinately improbable storyline or the illness that would ultimately consume him that the poet left the libretto unfinished? Despite the urgings of the irrepressible Verdi, Cammarano would not yield. Herein lays the paradox of Il Trovatore: in the eyes of its detractors it was the epitome of melodrama and yet the formal constraints imposed by Cammarano fanned the flames of the composer’s passions. Rather than true characters – excepting perhaps Azucena the Gypsy, who guards the secret that will destroy them all – the music portrays almost abstract figures consumed by passion. Originally intended by Verdi to be a secondary role, Leonora takes on the status of a sacrificial heroine. Her fourth-act cavatina “D’amor sull’ali rosee” is not so much a farewell as an Assumption.
Anna Netrebko carries this enraptured music to new heights. She is accompanied by Ekaterina Semenchuk, Marcelo Alvarez and Ludovic Tézier, in a new production by Alex Ollé.

La Traviata (Live): Opera in Movies@Gorey

For One Night Only Thursday, 4th February @ 6.45pm – Book Now

The Royal Opera brings to life one of opera’s greatest tragedies bursting with passion, drama and world famous melodies on Thursday 4 February at 6.45pm with a live performance of Verdi’s masterpiece La traviata. Perfect for first time opera goers, La Traviata – described by the Daily Express as “a shining example of opera at its best” – is sure not to leave a dry eye in the house. The sumptuous production opens in the indulgent social whirl of 19th century Paris. Violetta, a beautiful courtesan, leads a life of glamour but darker undercurrents emerge after she meets the love of her life and the young couple are forced apart by society. Verdi’s sensational score ranges from the jubilant with the world famous Brindisi, the ‘toast’ of the party, to the heart breaking “Parigi, o cara” in which the lovers poignantly imagine a life that will never be theirs. Traditional staging with stunning grand costumes and set in gloriously opulent ballrooms, La traviata will be conducted by Yves Abel and performed by an all-star cast including Venera Gimadieva and Samir Pirgu as the doomed lovers.

ENO: The Barber of Seville in Movies@Gorey

Playing Monday, October 19th (one Night Only)- Book Now
ENO Screen - The Barber of Seville_quadThe Barber of Seville will have you smiling from the moment it begins. Filled with fun and farce, this sunny adventure follows the escapades of the barber Figaro as he assists Count Almaviva to prise the beautiful yet feisty Rosina away from her lecherous guardian Dr Bartolo. Set in an elegant vision of 18th-century Seville, Jonathan Miller’s much-loved production returns to the Coliseum and remains as side-splittingly funny as ever. For this revival, the talented Christopher Allen will conduct Rossini’s sparkling score, packed full of wit and playful tunes.

‘The Barber of Seville’, Live at Movies @ Gorey, from The English National Opera,

Monday, October 19th @ 7.30pm.    (From Jim Ryan)

Denis Forman writes of ‘The Barber of Seville’, Rossini’s sixteenth opera, premiered at the Teatro Argentina, Rome, on February 26th, 1816:- “It is probably the most popular and most performed piece in the whole operatic repertoire”.


ENO Screen - The Barber of Seville (c) Scott RylanderOne of Rossini’s most enduring of all his thirty-nine operas; it has never fallen into neglect, even when his fortunes were at their lowest. It is another of those immortal operas which had calamitous opening nights. Anything that could go wrong did so: Count Almaviva’s guitar for his serenade to Rosina was out of tune, and this occasioned catcalls from which the evening never recovered. The theatre was filled with supporters of Paisiello, who had composed a very successful opera based on the same libretto; they were determined to ensure that Rossini’s version failed and misbehaved accordingly’.

Rossini was in shock, but he need not have worried because within a short time the ‘Barber’ was one of the most popular of all operas. Today it’s performed with heart-warming frequency and is a never ending joy to opera lovers. It is arguably the greatest comic opera of all. Verdi loved ‘The Barber’ because of what he described as its “abundance of true musical ideas” – and not many have disagreed with him. Even Beethoven, never a barrel of laughs, asked Rossini to “write more Barbers”. Sadly, Rossini retired from composing operas halfway through life – no one knows exactly why; perhaps the popularity of Meyerbeer’s barnstorming operas and the rise of Wagner’s more tumultuous music-dramas discouraged him.

ENO 1516 The Barber of Seville, Company (c) Mike HobanHappily, today, as he prophesied, up to twenty of his operas hold the stage worldwide to great acclaim. And I rejoice at that because I believe that Rossini, by his music, brought as much happiness and delight to the world as any composer. Comedy, inspired mayhem, zest and rip-roaring farce are characteristic of so many of his comedies, and the music is just gorgeous. He idolised Mozart, who he said he never tired of, and while the ‘Barber’ may not have the sheer musical genius of Mozart’s opera about the same Figaro, “The Marriage of Figaro”, it is a real musical tonic with lovely arias, duets and ensembles and a delightful plot. Maria Callas’s recording with Tito Gobbi sparkles all through and gives a great taste of the fun, comedy and beauty of this great opera.

The story ENO 1516 The Barber of Seville, Company 1 (c) Mike Hobanpredates that of ‘Figaro’ – the Count has not yet married Rosina but will succeed in ‘stealing’ her from her ageing suitor/ward, Dr. Bartolo. He will win her hand with the connivance of the   wily barber, Figaro, (“Figaro here, Figaro there, Figaro everywhere”!) one of the most lovable characters in all opera.

I could fill pages about the joy that Rossini’s operas and, especially the ‘Barber’ have given me, (including a memorable production a couple of years ago at the Lismore Music Festival), but will merely state: we’re facing in to a long dark winter; a good performance of this opera will put a smile on your face and ‘help shorten the winter’. Not to be missed.


The Importance of Being Earnest (Live) in Movies@Gorey

Playing Thursday, October 8th (one Night Only)- Book Now

Earnest Quad Poster ArtworkOscar Wilde’s much-loved classic play, The Importance Of Being Earnest, will be broadcast LIVE from London’s Vaudeville Theatre on Thursday 8 October 2015, with additional backstage footage and cast interviews exclusive to the cinema event. Having just opened to critical acclaim with 4 star reviews from The Guardian, The Times, The Evening Standard, Daily Mail, The Independent and The Stage, the new production stars one of Britain’s best-known stage, screen and television actors, David Suchet (familiar to millions of TV viewers as the detective Hercule Poirot), who plays the role of the formidable Lady Bracknell. David Suchet says: ‘I’m delighted that one of the finest plays in the English language will be broadcast live across the UK and Ireland on 8th October, entertaining theatre lovers and Oscar Wilde fans from Inverness to Ilfracombe and almost everywhere in between! We’re having tremendous fun with the play and look forward to sharing this with cinema audiences too.’

With its high farce and witty dialogue The Importance of Being Earnest is Oscar Wilde’s mostenduringly popular play and fizzes with wit as he delights in debunking social pretensions. Two bachelor friends, aristocratic dandy Algernon Moncrieff and the most reliable John Worthing J.P., lead double lives to court the attentions of the desirable Gwendolyn Fairfax and Cecily Cardew. The gallants must then grapple with the uproarious consequences of their ruse, and with the formidable Lady Bracknell.

Following a six week UK tour, The Importance Of Being Earnest opened at the Vaudeville Theatre on 1 July, and is directed by the multi-award winning Adrian Noble, a former Artistic Director of the RSC whose extensive theatre credits range from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Palladium to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf for the Theatre Royal, Bath and a myriad of acclaimed productions in between. The play also stars Emily Barber (Billy Liar, Cornelius, The Hired Man, Fiddler on the Roof and Orpheus & Eurydice), Michael Benz (Downton Abbey, Mike and Angelo, Little Lord Fauntleroy, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, As You Like It), Philip Cumbus (A Touch Of Frost, My Hero, Hope and Glory and Our Brave Boys, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, The Macbeth, Much Ado about Nothing), Imogen Doel (The Get Out, Gastronauts, Primetime, Collaboration, In the Vale of Health, Serpent’s Tooth), Michele Dotrice (Betty in Some Mothers Do Ave ‘Em, Captain Jack, The Witches, And Soon The Darkness and Jane Eyre, When We Are Married, Richard III) and Richard O’Callaghan (Carry On Loving and Carry On at Your Convenience, Casualty, Red Dwarf, Dalziel and Pascoe).

“The Importance of Being Earnest”, October 8th    (From Jim Ryan)

Wilde, the most famous playwright of his day, wrote some of the greatest and most popular comedies in the English language. “The Importance of Being Earnest” is a perennial delight and, in a good production, provides unsurpassable entertainment.  He was born on October 16th, 1854 to Sir William and Lady Jane Francesca Wilde, his father a famous eye-specialist and his mother, who, as “Speranza”, wrote patriotic verse. The playwright, after an eventful and ultimately tragic life, died in Paris on November 30th, 1900.

Jack & Gwendolen

It’s generally accepted that he was received into the Catholic Church on his deathbed. His mother, it seems expected the birth to produce a daughter, and when he turned out to be male, she attired him for many years in boy’s clothing – however, he drank mid-west American cowboys and miners “under the table” on his literary tours of that country. He was one of the greatest raconteurs of all time. His tomb, among the most visited in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, is one of the most famous in the world. The scandals surrounding his life are ‘small fry’ in today’s world and his plays are more popular than ever – our own Abbey and Gate Theatres have done much to keep his name alive.


I never tire of seeing this great play – indeed, it’s only a few weeks ago since I saw at The Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin in a superb production Directed by Kate Canning of Ballyduff Drama Group. The plot is excellent, the situations are sometimes hilarious (eg Jack Worthing mourning the death of the ‘brother’ who, next thing, comes on the stage in the pink of health), Cecily and Gwendolen going from sworn eternal friendship to lasting enmity and back in a short space of time, unforgettable characters (especially Lady Bracknell, played here by David Suchet) and witty, sparkling dialogue.

This critically-acclaimed production is not to be missed by those who love the theatre.

NT Live: Hamlet in Movies@Gorey

Playing Thursday, October 15th (one Night Only)- Book Now

Intl - Listings image - landscapeAcademy Award® nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock, The Imitation Game, Frankenstein at the National Theatre) takes on the title role of Shakespeare’s great tragedy. Directed by Lyndsey Turner (Posh, Chimerica) and produced by Sonia Friedman Productions, National Theatre Live will broadcast this eagerly awaited production live to cinemas. As a country arms itself for war, a family tears itself apart. Forced to avenge his father’s death but paralysed by the task ahead, Hamlet rages against the impossibility of his predicament, threatening both his sanity and the security of the state.

“Hamlet”: NT Live, October 15th.   (from Jim Ryan)

    11863499_10153080462603857_1258343244291158775_n “Hamlet” is the most famous and frequently-quoted play ever written – Richard Burton (a friend who saw him in the role early in his career told me it was an unforgettable experience) told of a performance at which Sir Winston Churchill sat in the front row and was saying the lines so audibly ahead of the actor that it almost caused him to forget his lines. Hamlet is probably the most coveted role of all for those who think themselves capable of playing it; the roll-call of the great Hamlets includes most of the most renowned male (and some female) actors in theatrical history. For a huge proportion of those who have seen the play, it’s the greatest they’ve seen. The number of times it’s been parodied also attest to its stature – the iconic question, “To be or not to be”, was once reduced by students, in a comedy, to the more profound question: “To beer or not to beer”!

“Hamlet”, apart from the magnificent soliloquys, in which we see into the recesses of11215195_10153080462853857_2109374213716308149_n
the hero’s mind , fizzes along at a relentless pace – it has enough exciting, even murderous physical action, intrigue, betrayal and humour to keep us on the edge of our seats. And, of course, it has a psychological study of its central character, Hamlet, which has defied definitive interpretation for over four hundred years – even Sigmund Freud has had his say, but Hamlet eludes them all. Each century has had its own Hamlet as will each playgoer. Why does he take so long to avenge his father’s murder – does he himself know; in the course of the play, he gives differing reasons.

12002943_10153127511253857_2907206483476493451_nBenedict Cumberbatch’s “Hamlet” has been one of the most eagerly-awaited theatrical events of the decade and the critics have acclaimed his performances. SGC Dungarvan have saved me a journey to London by screening this Everest of a play and we viewers will have ‘the best seats in the house’ for what should be memorable. Unmissable!


Aida on Sydney Harbour in Movies@Gorey

Playing Tuesday, September 15th (One Night Only)- Book Now

In Aida, Verdi masterfully puts the intimate affairs of the heart against the grandeur of the universe: where kingdoms rise and fall and the sands of time grind onwards.
There could be no grander setting for such an opera than Sydney Harbour itself, awash with the light of the city and the Sydney Opera House silhouetted against the setting sun.

Production Image 2Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour has become a huge part of the cultural landscape, combining
all of the things Sydney does best: world-class opera, champagne and fine dining, sunsets and spectacle on the harbour’s edge. It’s a monumental undertaking, with a team of more than 700 people involved in the project before a single note is heard over the harbour.
Production Image 1Aida is the biggest opera they’ve ever performed on the opera stage. But amid all of the spectacle, the famous ‘Triumphal March’, battle scenes and ancient temples, there’s an emotional heart.
Long after the fireworks have faded from the sky and Amneris sings her quiet, concluding prayer, you’ll see the true mastery of this opera: it is at once an historic epic and an utterly relatable human tragedy.
Running time: Approximately 2 hours 25 minutes including a 15 minute interval.
Performed in Italian with English translations



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