Isabel Smyth and Emer Foley at the Kilkenny Arts Festival Programme Launch in Dublin. Picture: Pat Moore
Ireland’s oldest and best multidisciplinary arts festival reveals a scintillating, wide-ranging programme for its 45th edition this August.
With a series of world premiere productions and Festival commissions, immersive music series to dive or dip into, a new take a much-loved Shakespeare comedy, the first-ever Irish staging of one of the greatest operas, unmissable exhibitions and a host of talks, debate and discussion - the 2018 Kilkenny Arts Festival offers new ideas and unforgettable experiences to enchant audiences of all kinds.
Hosting a mouth-watering programme of events and a cast of top international and national names, the real star of the Festival is the city of Kilkenny itself.
With its atmospheric spaces and narrow streets, few festivals in the world can boast such evocative spaces, echoing their history but ideal for performance and embracing the audiences of today.
Festival features several firsts
Kilkenny Arts Festival 2018 will feature several firsts. The Festival returns to the magical Castle Yard with a bold new take on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a co-production with Rough Magic, the first time a production has been specially created for this unique open-air space.
Always a big hit with locals and visitors alike, Shakespeare in the Castle Yard promises a fabulously funny and magical night under the stars with a brilliant young Irish cast directed by Lynne Parker.
This year also sees the Festival present its first full-scale staged opera, The Return of Ulysses, Claudio Monteverdi’s magnificent retelling of Homer’s Odyssey, never before staged in Ireland.
Co-produced with Opera Collective Ireland and featuring the renowned Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, The Return of Ulysses brings together a world-class creative team led by Tony Award-winning director Patrick Mason and the Festival’s regular operatic partner, conductor Christian Curnyn.
The Festival will also present world premiere productions of two new Festival commissions: Inventions, by Irish Modern Dance Theatre set in the former Carlton Ballroom with an international cast led by the legendary Valda Setterfield and Oona Doherty; and The Lightkeepers’ Last Stand, a free aerial circus show for all ages by the awe-inspiring Loosysmokes, playing in Kilkenny Castle Park twice daily.
The music programme offers a more diverse range of concerts than ever, from morning 'til late at night.
Brahms in the Afternoon, a ten-day journey through the chamber music masterpieces of the great romantic composer featuring leading classical stars from far and near; Later Beethoven, a three-concert series by the Festival’s resident ensemble, the Irish Chamber Orchestra, contrasting Beethoven’s astonishing later works with thrilling 21st-century compositions; mesmeric musical collaborations in the Marble City Sessions hosted by renowned fiddler Martin Hayes.
And a mouth-watering series of ‘beyond genre’ artists, including a new jazz series - the Sofa Sessions - and a special celebration of the late Kilkenny music legend Willie Meighan in partnership with the city’s famous Rollercoaster Records.
Actor Stephen Rea returns to the Festival to perform Derek Mahon’s epic poetic sequence New York Time in the premiere of a new musical setting, and the great Eavan Boland is the Festival’s poet in residence.
In the Spoken Word strand the Festival delves into contemporary issues like fake news and Brexit and pulls at the loose threads of history with fresh thinking on iconic Irish heroes, featuring a roster of national and international guests including Newsnight presenter Evan Davis, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and doyenne of Irish diplomacy Anne Anderson.
Exhibitions of art and design include stunning new shows at the Butler Gallery and the National Design & Craft Gallery, while architecture is prominent this year with Kilkenny Visions, a thought-provoking exhibition of new plans for Kilkenny’s cultural future in partnership with the UCD School of Architecture, and a much-anticipated lecture from Irish architectural stars Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, curators of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.
The Festival’s hugely popular series of Secret Garden free pop-up performances returns twice daily in a trail of exquisite historic gardens across the city, and bursts out onto High Street for the first time on both weekends.
Launching this year’s programme, festival director Eugene Downes said: “We want to invite everyone, young and old, to join us in wonderful, historic Kilkenny for eleven days of unmissable experiences, day and evening, indoors and out. You’ll discover heart stopping performances and encounter world-renowned artists in some of Ireland’s most magical spaces.
For more check out their website at kilkennyarts.ie