I am back in Wexford for the first time in three years - back in a place which has so many happy memories having been Festival director here for seven years 1967-73. Of course the place has changed enormously over the years, most importantly in the building of the magnificent new opera house, a remarkable building to find in this small town in the south east of Ireland. But the essential spirit of the festival is unchanged, the friendliness of the people, the committed community, and the ambitious aspiration of the Artistic direction. But the achievement of of the current director, David Agler, is extraordinary, and by all accounts the current festival is amongst the finest ever. What can be achieved in this beautiful theatre would have been unthinkable fifty years ago.
Last night we saw a rarity (which Wexford specialises in of course) - Ferdinand Hérold's Le Pré aux clercs. This was a co-production with the Opéra-Comique and others, richly supported by donors and sponsors, the result of which was a very classy piece of work indeed. It was, as is the current pattern, very well cast, and the excellent Festival Orchestra was conducted with brio and enthusiasm by Jean-Luc Tingaud. Balance between voices and the pit in this theatre is never a problem - and he gave us an invigorating first look at this piece which, though it may never make the mainstream repertoire, is more than worth the occasional revival. And with singers such as the stunning Marie-Eve Munger in the role of Isabelle, Marie Lenormand (COT's Penelope in 2007) as Marguerite de Valois, Magali Simard-Galdès as Nicette, and Eric Huchet as Cantarelli, the ingredients were there for an exceptional evening. And Errol Girdlestone's Festival chorus were outstanding protagonists as well.
So this was a super start to a three day stay. It is Delius this evening and Mascagni tomorrow. Meanwhile there is the enjoyment of this delightful place to look forward to.