Opera Fringe

6th festival serves up six premieres

Home grown opera talent is blended with new imports at the sixth Opera Fringe Festival, in partnership with Down District Council, from June 8-24.

'We are thrilled to have three world premieres in this year’s programme, each with a very distinct style,' says chairperson for Fringe Performances Caroline Nolan.

Gerard McChrystal'The Marriage of Figaro by Opera Theatre Company will be brought to life in a reduced orchestration. Codetta with Gerard McChrystal features collaboration between choir and saxophonist and The Vikings, presented by Live Music Now, Creative Youth Partnerships, Classic FM and Opera Fringe, will see a battalion of opera singers battling it out with pupils of All Children’s Integrated and Newcastle Primary Schools.’

Homegrown opera talent will also be showcased with three Irish premieres, set in atmospheric surroundings.

‘The Great Hall in Downshire Estate is the setting for the Irish Premiere of The Armonico Consort’s production of Henry Purcell’s The Fairy Queen,' Nolan continues. 'Based on the ideas and characters from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and featuring a cast of 20 including the Orchestra of the Baroque, the production is set in Victorian painter Richard Dadd’s inspired and unhinged world, drawing upon paintings created during his time in Bedlam Asylum.’

The Armonico Consort's talents are displayed in Down Cathedral on Sunday June 10 as singers and instrumentalists perform Pergolesi’s powerful masterpiece Stabat Mater alongside Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas.

Marking the 250th anniversary of the death of the great Italian master Domenico Scarlatti with another Irish premiere, the Irish Baroque Orchestra Chamber Soloists perform in Down Arts Centre on Saturday June 16. They will be joined by one of Europe’s rising vocal stars, English countertenor Owen Willetts.

Inch Abbey, Downpatrick is the place to be on Friday June 22 at 8pm, for a midsummer celebration with Renaissance and Festival Brass, sponsored by Environment and Heritage Service. Wrap up warm and enjoy Renaissance choir, which in the last 30 years has established itself as one of the UK’s most versatile and dynamic vocal ensembles.

Lunchtime Soup Operas are back on the menu and celebrate a diverse range of vocal styles and genres. Two of Ireland’s top folk vocalists, Padraigin Ni Uallachain and Len Graham appear in Maginns, Castlewellan on Saturday June 9, while performance poet Zena Edwards entertains diners at Rathdune House, Downpatrick on Friday June 22. All six Lunchtime Soup Operas start promptly at 12:30pm.

The Down Arts Centre will be transported back in time to relive its former past as a cinema with the screening of U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha and Porgy and Bess.

Introduced by Melvin Rickerby of BBC NI, U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha is based upon Mark Donford-May’s thrilling version of Bizet’s Carmen. Set in the South African township of Khayelistsha and sung in Xhosa, the film is screened on Thursday June 12 at 7.30pm.

Porgy and Bess, regarded as one of the greatest American folk operas is directed by Trevor Nunn and conducted by Simon Rattle and screens on Wednesday June 20 at 7.30pm.

The popularity of last year’s Festival Club has guaranteed its return to Denvir’s Hotel. The club will be open after all evening performances to ticket holders only, so hang on to your ticket stubs. Denvir’s Hotel is also the venue for several Lunchtime Soup Operas and talks by industry representatives.

George Fleeton offers a preview of his tribute to Maria Callas on the 30th anniversary of her death on Sunday June 10, while Michael White, writer and BBC Broadcaster will be offering a defence of his profession in Don’t Shoot The Critic (let him die more slowly) on Sunday June 17, both at 3pm.

‘This year’s programme incorporates a number of art forms,' says Nolan. Music is combined with performance, film, poetry and photography. We have a number of dedicated children’s events, with storytelling, opera mask making workshops and several schools are involved in performances.'

Tickets can be booked at the box office: 02844 610747.