Ah June- that magical pre-exam time of sunshine and balmy evenings. Perfect for picnics on the lawn and putting a tent up in the garden. So to Lismore Music Festival in the enchanting Blackwater Valley, Co Waterford for an evening of sparkling Rossini in the Castle Grounds. Turning off the main road at Cahir, the drive to Lismore through the Vee Valley in the Knockmealdown Mountains was magical with a clamour of purple rhodedendrons in full bloom lining the route .
With a relatively late start of 8.30 pm, presumably to better facilitate the die-hard picnic brigade and to allow changing natural illumination, the festival production of The Barber of Seville commenced in the canopied disused stable yard in the grounds of Lismore Castle. The large cast was well chosen with petite Rosina, Pervin Chakar nicely matched by Almaviva played by Puerto Rican tenor Javier Abreu. Star of the show in the title role was Limerick baritone, Owen Gilhooly who commanded the stage in every respect from his hilarious arrival on baby blue vespa scooter even adding his own sympathetic guitar accompaniment in the balcony serenade. Sandra Oman almost stole some of scenes in her role of Berta, a perky bar maid and there was much slapstick jocularity particularly in the final scene before slimy Dr Bartolo (Damon Nestor Ploumis), inevitably took a dive in the fountain at the finale. Other Irish singers included Gerard O Connor as Don Basilio and Mark Duff as Fiorillo. The device of having
I note that director Dieter Kaegi spent ten years at the Aix en Provence Festival helm and the experience had many elements in common with a visit to Theatre l'Archeveché , the existing structures of a historical building integrated into the open air set. Here the shabby stable doors and courtyard fountain
|'Rossini' Cocktail du Jour |
at OBrien's Chop House
Maybe it was this aspect of the evening that reinforced my ambivalence about the al fresco opera experience. Opera in the Open in a Dublin Civic space appealed to me because it made a daytime opera experience easily available and accessible to lots of people who wouldn't normally attend . With a surfeit of well appointed theatres and a defecit of events to fill them in driving distance of Lismore, does it make sense to mount an expensive production in an outdoor space heavily reliant on an aspect of the production you can't control,- the weather? While I found this production to be thoroughly engaging and great fun with fine ensemble singing and acting and some remarkable individual performances , one couldn't say the evening was very comfortable. Opera began in the homes of the Florentine aristocracy but at Lismore, there was a sense that we could play in the garden but not in the house as no part of the tantalising interior of the splendid castle was open to us for any part of the evening apart from the entrance courtyard.
Nevertheless, the 2012 LMF production of The Barber of Seville was one of great flair and imagination and cast &crew fully deserved their standing ovation from a full house at the close .Next year's production is the Mozart's Magic Flute and the programme is extended to include recitals at Salterbridge, Cappoquin and Tourin Houses. I am looking forward to seeing LMF develop in this beautiful and under rated part of the country.