What kind of festival does Kilkenny not currently have? An opera festival.
But that is about to change, thanks to the efforts of a newly formed committee of locals who are preparing to present Kilkenny Festival Opera next spring.
It’s the start of what is hoped to grow from being an annual event to twice yearly with a summer and a winter season of opera.
And central to the Kilkenny Festival Opera is that it will be a locally grown affair, said festival promoter Paddy Rafter.
“I want this to be a local thing as much as possible. We want local people involved and locals can feel they own it as they do with hurling and other things,” he said.
The plan is to run a week-long festival during the second week in May 2012 in which a modern opera will be staged in the Watergate Theatre. The aim is to have four or five matinees for students, plus five or six night-time performances, Mr Rafter said.
“We are going to put on a grand opera, in other words operas of Puccini, Mascangi and Verdi,” he said. “And we want it to be opera to the highest possible standard in terms of musicality and presentation,” which will mean a performance in Italian with English surtitles to help the audience follow the story.
The performers will mainly be local, with the principals, or main singers, coming primarily from Milan’s world-renowned opera house La Scala, to which Mr Rafter has a personal connection as he has worked there for five years as a tenor and studied with the house master and conductor Massimilliano Bullo while also studying vocal training with the main singing teacher, Carlo Gaifa.
The aim between now and when Kilkenny Festival Opera takes to the stage is to get as many local people involved as possible, from set design to taking part in the chorus, whether it’s picking up a paintbrush or helping with promotion, finance and accounting, hospitality or public relations.
“We want every single person in Kilkenny to feel they have an involvement in this. There is room for everybody, whatever your talent, and you don’t even have to be musical,” Mr Rafter said.
“I’ve sung in operas all over the north and south of Italy, and in all those areas the most amazing thing for me when I started was that everybody went to the opera, from the guy who was the mayor, to the local doctor, to the farm labourers who came in from the fields on their scooters and parked them outside the opera house,” he added.
And why not have an opera festival in Kilkenny, Mr Rafter said. “Kilkenny is a good location for it. It has a good ambiance for it, and the whole feel of Kilkenny lends itself very much to that kind of setting.”
Anyone interested in getting involved in Kilkenny Festival Opera can contact Paddy Rafter at the Kilkenny Academy of Music on 056 7767101 or 086 3199374.