Limerick role in world opera featured in city exhibition

Internationally acclaimed soprano Suzanne Murphy with a portrait of Catherine Hayes, who achieved worldwide fame in the 1850's, are featured in the exhibition.

ITEMS from the permanent collection of the Limerick Museum, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and La Scala, Milan are featured in the operatic memorabilia exhibition which is being as part of the Limerick Opera Festival.

The exhibition, which runs at the Limerick Museum on Henry Street until the end of June, also includes objects on loan from private collectors.

They demonstrate the high quality of Limerick’s musical life over the past 250 years along with reminders of the city’s great venues such as the 1,300 seat Theatre Royal on Henry Street (1841-1922) and the 1,500 seat Savoy Theatre on Bedford Row (1935-88).

Items loaned by two of the top five opera houses in the world, the Royal Opera House and La Scala demonstrate how Limerick punched above its weight in the world’s musical culture over the past 200 years.

Limerick’s first operatic production was the Beggar’s Opera by John Gay in 1767. With a long and splendid 250-year old operatic history, Limerick has produced many iconic figures of the operatic genre, from European idol Catherine Hayes, born in Patrick Street who performed in Buckingham Palace before Queen Victoria and her entire Court, to Joseph O’Mara and, in more recent times, Suzanne Murphy.

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Limerick also inspired The Lily of Killarney, a famous opera based on the tragic story of the Colleen Bawn, Ellen Hanley from Ballycahane, near Bruree. The Lily of Killarney was performed all over the world and is mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Established in 2019 by Ger Reidy, the Limerick Opera Festival was created to bring opera to the entire community, through a wide variety of live performances, operatic renditions, exhibitions and community events. Through this initiative, Ger Reidy and his colleagues seek to foster a community that celebrates its past.

The exhibition, curated by Ger Reidy and Dr Matthew Potter, Curator of the Limerick Museum, is one of a series held at the venue since it reopened in the old Franciscan Friary five years ago and which have resulted in the Museum becoming one of the principal exhibition venues in Limerick.