Our expert looks forward to the classical and opera highlights of 2019.
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra – New Year Celebration
January 1, 3.30pm, National Concert Hall, Dublin
The NSO kicks off 2019 on Tuesday afternoon with its annual salute to the day that’s in it, a concert highlighting the glorious glamour and infectious good humour of Vienna at New Year. Strauss favourites combine with hits from the musical stage brought to life by two star singers – our very own top soprano Anna Devin, and the Romanian tenor Teodor Ilincăi. To help ensure the mood matches the music, there’s a complimentary glass of bubbly. Neil Thomson conducts. nch.ie
Orfeo ed Euridice
February 7 – 8 Civic Theatre, Tallaght, Dublin (plus more dates nationwide)
Irish National Opera has an ambitious programme planned for 2019. They start by taking Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice on the road. This was the opera that broke the mould when it was first staged in 1762, paring back the complexities of the Italian opera seria style, delivering the “beautiful simplicity” Gluck sought in his music. Starting in Tallaght, this 13-date collaboration with the Irish Baroque Orchestra will end at the National Opera House in Wexford on March 2. irishnationalopera.ie
February 15, National Concert Hall The great Welsh bass-baritone joins the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of his compatriot Gareth Jones for an evening of song. There’ll be Mozart and Wagner, some Verdi, too, and a couple of showstoppers from beyond the opera stage – ‘Oh Shenandoah’, that traditional American folk tune that Bryn has made his own, and ‘If I Were a Rich Man’, the stand-out number from the musical Fiddler on the Roof. nch.ie
The Puccini Scandale
April 24, National Concert Hall
Opera with a difference – it’s a dramatisation of the life of Puccini, featuring his music (La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, Tosca), but presented as flashbacks as the composer reflects while he struggles to finish Turandot, his final masterpiece. Written and directed by Niall Morris, who takes on the role of the composer himself. nch.ie
May 9, National Concert Hall
Marc-André Hamelin – one of the world’s top pianists – makes his solo debut in Earlsfort Terrace. The Canadian, who was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame in recognition of the artistic excellence he displayed across no fewer than 70 CDs on the Hyperion label, is a performer of stunning technical expertise. Described by his record company as “a true avatar of the piano”, he’ll perform pieces by Chopin, Fauré and Schumann. The programme also includes music from the 20th century – a work by the Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and arrangements of songs by Alexis Weissenberg, transcriptions of recordings by the French singer-songwriter Charles Trenet by Marc-André Hamelin himself. nch.ie
The Magic Flute
Wexford, May 17; Limerick, May 19; Dublin, May 21 – 25
In collaboration with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, Irish National Opera are presenting Mozart’s final musical drama The Magic Flute at the National Opera House in Wexford on May 17, at the University Concert Hall in Limerick on May 19, then at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin from May 21 to 25.
Completed just months before the composer’s death at the age of only 35, he didn’t live long enough to see it become one of his most popular creations. From Papageno’s ‘Bird Catcher’ song to ‘Der Hölle Rache’ (the Queen of the Night aria), it’s full of great tunes. irishnationalopera.ie
Various dates and venues
It’s fair to say that Cork is pretty much the home of chamber music in Ireland. There’s the Ortús Festival, established just three years ago to bring together top Irish and international musicians to perform across the city and county, this year from March 1 to 3 (ortusfestival.ie).
The big daddy of them all is the West Cork Chamber Music Festival. The event in Bantry goes from strength to strength – this will be the 25th. It’s on from June 28 to July 7 (westcorkmusic.ie).
Triskel Christchurch in Cork (triskelartscentre.ie) runs regular Saturday lunchtime concerts.
But even if the southern metropolis is the Chamber Music Capital of Ireland, there will be a wealth of wonderful melodies to be enjoyed around the country, with more than 30 concerts planned for the autumn already.
By Hilary A White
Feb 9 – April 7, The Model, Sligo
The Model’s illustrious Niland Collection celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2019 so expect much activity in the north-west. First up is this widescreen project exploring the nature of collecting and stewardship – why we do it, what it can teach us about the past, and what we lose if a collection is broken up. One strand of this ambitious venture is an “exhibition within an exhibition” concerning the ‘idiosyncratic’ private assemblage of Jobst Graeve, a keen collector of art long before his move to Ireland from Germany in the early 1980s. themodel.ie
Mary Swanzy: Voyages
March 15 – June 3, Crawford Art Gallery, Cork
Cork plays host to this retrospective of dexterous Dublin pioneer Mary Swanzy (1882-1978) who, over her lifetime of excellence, advanced from the academic style of her early years to successful soirées with a range of genres, including cubism, futurism and surrealism. If you can’t wait that long, there is a chance to get an early look at these 70 or so works in IMMA (running now until February 17). Either way, Swanzy is a giant worth reacquainting yourself with. crawfordartgallery.ie
Mark Dion: Our Plundered Planet
April 4 – September 1 The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin
US artist Dion has long been fascinated with the how institutions and prevailing ideologies can affect our understanding and connection with the natural world. He frequently collaborates with natural history museums, zoos and aquariums to examine the roots of environmental politics, and how our worldview can be infiltrated by pseudo-science and agendas. An unusual exhibition that arrives at a key moment. hughlane.ie
April 20 – July 7, National Gallery of Ireland (Beit Wing)
Spanning a quarter of a millennium and multiple disciplines, this “concept show” is billed as a way to explore how the Irish landscape has been pieced apart and reassembled through art during the huge social and geographical changes that have taken place on this island. Recent acquisitions from the likes of Dorothy Cross, Sean Scully and Nick Miller will sit next to more well-known residents of Merrion Square. nationalgallery.ie
Life above Everything: Lucian Freud and Jack B Yeats
June – January 2020 IMMA (The Freud Centre)
This fourth exhibition in IMMA’s Freud Project 2016-2021 looks at the interconnections between Lucian Freud and another 20th-century heavyweight, Jack B Yeats. The former had huge respect for Yeats, with some believing his first trip to the Emerald Isle in 1948 was a pilgrimage to touch the settings of Yeats’ works. The pair also had their work shown together that year in London, meaning this intriguing show will be the first time in 70 years they have hung together. Noteworthy here is the involvement of Freud’s long-time studio assistant David Dawson, who would have much background knowledge of Freud’s passion for Yeats. imma.ie
As a founding member of Sonic Youth (along with ex-partner Thurston Moore), Kim Gordon is widely regarded as alt-rock royalty. What many may not know about the New Yorker is that her artistic drive always cross-pollinated with other media, resulting in solo exhibitions in galleries since 1981. This first Irish exhibition from the 65-year-old will bring an irreverence to themes of dismantling hierarchical structures while allowing fans to get to see another side to her oeuvre. imma.ie
Tom Byrne: Coast to Coast
April – June Duke St Gallery, Dublin
A star of the Celtic Tiger art scene, Byrne became renowned for bringing the scuffed heels of his early punk years to depictions of Irish cultural giants. This exhibition of abstract seascapes shows another side to Byrne’s considerable skills that his many followers will already be familiar with. Harnessing horizontal plains and subtle shifts in texture and light, Byrne’s minimalist approach to the Irish coast will be rendered through large-scale works. dukestreetgallery.ie
Anita Groener: The Past is a Foreign Country
August 31-October 12, Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre
One of the most monumental and emotive issues of the last few years is approached in this collection from Dutch-born, Dublin-based visual artist Anita Groener. The refugee crisis and what it tells us about humanity on both sides of the predicament, as well as the ethics of witnessing it in motion, are confronted by Groener through drawings, large-scale installations, films and animations. westcorkartscentre.com