Limerick singers are two of the participants of the inaugural Wexford Factory

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Caption: The members of the inaugural Wexford Factory, pictured in the National Opera House. The inaugural Wexford Factory, a professional development academy for young Irish/Irish-based singers began this week. The 13 Irish/Irish-based singers are joined by a singer from a partner organisation, the Rossini Opera Festival Young Artist Programme, to make a total of 14. The singers will also perform in this year’s reimagined Festival which runs from 11-18 Oct. This year WFO will be an online celebration of music, entitled Waiting for Shakespeare …The Festival in the air’ but will still encompass many of the artistic ambitions already set out by Artistic Director Rosetta Cucchi, principally to nurture the talents of the best young Irish singers through the mentorship of world-renowned artists who share a love of Wexford. A highlight of this year’s Festival will be Falstaff Chronicles, a series of scenes from the Verdi opera, Falstaff, which will be performed by the members of the new Wexford Factory from the stage of the National Opera House and streamed in an episodic format over six consecutive days. For more see Wexfordopera.com Photo: Mark Stedman

EARLIER this summer Wexford Festival Opera, had to take the difficult decision to reschedule the previously announced artistic programme to October 2021. 

This is due to the ongoing worldwide uncertainty regarding the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing restrictions into the autumn, and in the best interests of the health and welfare of the Festival’s audiences, artists, staff, and volunteers.

However, the spirit which enabled a small provincial town to create a world-renowned opera festival continues to this day, inspiring Wexford, with the support and guidance of its board of directors, to develop a crisis-inspired formula by presenting a reimagined, online, free-to-view Festival.

Waiting for Shakespeare …The Festival in the air’ is an online celebration of music which will still encompass many of the artistic ambitions already set out by Artistic Director Rosetta Cucchi earlier in the year, principally to nurture the talents of the best young Irish singers through the mentorship of world-renowned artists who share a love of Wexford.

This reimagined Festival aims to bring together audiences and the wider worldwide Wexford community through the power of music.

The Festival will now run for eight consecutive days, from Sunday, 11 October until Sunday, 18 October 2020. During this time, audiences from home and abroad will be invited to experience the magic of Wexford Festival Opera online and free-to-view, from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Further details of where and how to join in will be announced shortly. 

The inaugural Wexford Factory, a professional development academy for young Irish/Irish-based singers has been retained as a key part of this year’s reimagined Festival.

Participants will be tutored by some of the most celebrated professionals in opera today, including world-renowned tenor Juan Diego Flórez, Irish soprano Celine Byrne, as well as Ernesto Palacio of the Rossini Opera Festival and Dmitry Vdovin, head of the Bolshoi Young Artists Opera Programme. Veteran Wexford Festival Opera director Roberto Recchia, classical music journalist Michael Dervan, movement specialist Sara Catellani and Rosetta Cucchi will also provide professional instruction. 

One of the Wexford Factory participants is Limerick soprano Sarah Shine. Sarah was a recent member of the Salzburg Young Singers Project 2019 and has just finished two seasons as a singer in residence at  l’Académie de l’Opéra de Paris. At the Salzburg Festspiele, she performed the role of Angelika in ‘Der Gesang der Zauberinsel’ a commissioned children’s opera by Marius Felix Lange, performed in Masterclass with Helmut Deutsch and sang a final concert with the Mozarteumorchester Salzburg.

Sarah graduated with a B.A in Music Performance and a Recital Artist Diploma from the Royal Irish Academy of Music where she studied with Dr. Veronica Dunne. Shortly after, Sarah was chosen as one of 40 finalists to compete at the Neue Stimmen International Singing Competition 2015 in Gütersloh, Germany.

During her studies, Sarah made her operatic debut with some of Ireland’s leading opera companies. She played the role of Jenny’s Girl in ‘The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny’ with Opera Theatre Company in June 2014 and in December 2015 made her Wide-Open Opera debut as ‘Storyteller’ in ‘The Oldest Woman in Limerick’.

She has also performed with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra (Ireland) and Ulster Orchestra (Ireland) on numerous occasions Sarah has been a grateful recipient of bursaries from Siemens, The Arts Council of Ireland, Limerick City Arts Council and the Christopher Lynch Operatic Bursary.

Also participating in the Wexford Factory is Limerick bass-baritone David Howes. David initially studied with Olive Cowpar in Limerick before moving onto the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama, where he completed the Bachelor of Music degree with 1st class honours.
David now studies with Robert Dean and is a graduate of the distinguished Young Artist Programme with Northern Ireland Opera. Highlights of his career to date include performing the bass solo in Verdi’s Requiem at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin with Co-orch Dublin, Dun Laoghaire Choral Society and Cantairí Avondale, the roles of Jack and Flynn in the world premiere of Andrew Synnott’s opera, ‘Dubliners’, a co-production between Opera Theatre Company and Wexford Festival Opera, 2017.
Other roles include the title role in Hans Krasa’s ‘Brundibar’ (Killaloe Chamber Music Festival), Count Ceprano in ‘Rigoletto’ (OTC), Buff in ‘Der Schauspieldirektor’ (Irish National Opera), Marchese d’Obigny in ‘La traviata’, Prince Yamadori in ‘ Madama Butterfly’ (Lyric Opera, Dublin), Figaro in ‘Le nozze di Figaro’ (Zerere Arts Festival)
Peintre and 2nd Philosophe in Charpentier’s ‘Louise’ (Buxton Opera Festival), Sciarrone in ‘Tosca’ (WFO ShortWork 2015), Father Truelove in ‘The Rake’s Progress’, Noye in Britten’s ‘Noye’s Fludde’, and Quince in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. In recital, David has performed at the Kilkenny Arts Festival in a new edition of Beethoven’s Irish Airs, and also, Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer in the John Field Room at the National Concert Hall.