|Theatre Royal lobby|
Following fast on the heels of the Imagine Arts Festival, my home town Waterford cements its reputation as a good town for music and arts with the welcome return after a two year absence of the annual celebration of musical theatre, the Waterford International Light Opera Festival. Now in its' 50th year, rebranded as Waterford International Music Festival and incorporating not only shows at the magnificently refurbished Theatre Royal but also a fringe festival including the all pervasive gospel choirs, concerts and a school musical section .
Ours was a brief weekend visit. My must see event was the WIT production of Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas at Christchurch Cathedral, Waterford on Friday. It is not quite two decades since I lead an ensemble for a performance of this also under the aegis of WIT , an experience which remains one of the highlights of my playing experience. The constant in this equation was the presence of early music heavyweight Malcolm Proud at the harpsichord. On this occasion he was joined not by a assorted band of students and locals but by Camerata Kilkenny, a quartet of period baroque instrumentalists who played with satisfying bite and attack. The second violin player (Marja Gaynor) and bass viol particulary seemed to communicate very well within the ensemble.
The conductor mezzosoprano Brigid Knowles set a brisk and energetic pace throughout and the performances from all the soloists were competent and controlled. As befits baroque opera they were all very even . No one stood out apart from perhaps the more mature baritone, Dermot Doyle's Aeneas and the witches were very good, suitably 'cackly' . The young choir fired by her enthusiasm sang with great earnestness, well in tune and and with good dynamic contrast .
The music is glorious, fun , florid and achingly sad in parts and the Cathedral venue was a lovely venue in which to hear it. (Thank goodness for cushioned pews) As I came away , it was still relatively early (thanks in part to the brisk pace and tempi of the performance) and the empty seats through the open door of the Theatre Royal stalls beckoned patrons in for the second half of Nunsence but I resisted the 'Temptation to tackle the Timestep' of more than three centuries for another all- female cast ( well nearly -not forgetting Aeneas) and opted to savour the delights of the Baroque for a little longer .
A| top class G &;S production seemed less of an anachronistic indulgence with only two centuries to bidge and on Saturday night the Theatre Royal seemed the perfect Victorian space to view South Anglia Savoy Players very entertaining production of Pirates of Penzance. We picked up tickets in the Circle on the day at €30. It was wonderful to enjoy an unamplified production by these reknowned G&S specialists. Nothing disappointed. The sets were beautifully painted, the costumes were splendid , the choral numbers par excellance. every syllable clearly annunciated. Their rendition of Hail Poetry was a stand out moment and reprised later in the Munster Bar . While waiting for the adjudicator's report, an elderly gentleman asked me if I approved of the portrayal of the Sergeant of Police as a 'nancy boy.' Patrick Gallagher not only having a great voice got great comic mileage from his camp portrayal of this role and I loved it.
A trip to the Theatre Royal is always nostalgic for me as I had my first experiences of theatre both as viewer and musician in this auditotium. With the orchestra pit now sunken, I miss being able to watch the orchestra at work. The I was delighted to meet a former teacher, orchestra leader Teresa Costello and former deputy leader Patricia Cuddihy now retired after 40 years service in the pit. It was good to see Kevin Kavanagh former Musical Director in the audience.