President addresses opening of the Wexford Opera Festival 2020

Sun 11th Oct, 2020 | 20:00

Message for the Wexford Opera Festival 2020

11 October 2020

Dia is Muire dhaoibh uilig.

May I send my best wishes to all those taking part in this year’s Wexford Opera Festival.

I am deeply aware of the many important cultural events which are having to be presented in modified forms this year, in line with Covid restrictions. That, no doubt, has been greatly disappointing for so many of those who work, in their different ways, in the arts sector.

That so many cultural celebrations are taking place this year in unprecedented circumstances is due to the extraordinary commitment of artists, organisers, technical crews and audiences, united in their desire to make available, and continue to enable access in so many imaginative and innovate ways, to the cultural space which plays such an important part in all of our lives, in good times and bad.

The Wexford Opera Festival is no exception and has this year, under the inspired title ‘Waiting for Shakespeare – the Festival in the Air’, created a re-imagined version of this hugely important event on Ireland’s cultural calendar.

The dedication of Rossini’s solemn mass to the victims of Covid-19 reminds us that one of the great qualities of the Wexford Opera Festival has always been its will to speak to all citizens, creating a cultural space that belongs to the people in all their diversity and in their different circumstances, rejecting, thus, any notion that such a space is the preserve of an elite.

We remember, this year, all those who have lost their lives to Covid-19 and the many bereaved family members and friends that they have left behind.

That principle of solidarity is so much at the heart of this year’s festival, despite the challenging circumstances under which it is taking place. As always, the power of music to connect and unite is the driving force of the festival and its role as a major worldwide cultural event is equal to, but not greater than, its role as an accessible and inclusive community event.

I am delighted that the festival will be broadcast on RTÉ Lyric FM as well as being available on the RTÉ Player and will also be carried on the European Culture Channel ARTE. I am also very glad that we will receive the opportunity to witness first-hand the invaluable and generous work of the Wexford Factory, who do so much to assist young talented singers onto the international stage, by the live streaming of a mentoring session by the gifted Celine Byrne.

I know the artists this year, many of them worldwide renowned, share important connections to Wexford, reflecting the very origins of the festival which came about when a group of friends came together due to their shared love of music. From an informal night gathered around a gramophone, a music and arts festival was born which is today renowned around the world and will next year celebrate its seventieth anniversary.

To those friends, to all those who have participated in and supported the festival across the years, and indeed to all those who work so hard to create and maintain inspirational and accessible cultural spaces we owe a debt of gratitude. It is a debt that can only be adequately repaid by continuing, throughout this difficult time, to fight for the survival of that cultural space, which is so important.

Events like the Wexford Festival Opera have always been a crucial element in ensuring that we have the confidence and the foresight to retain a cultural space, a space that does not become marginal, tangential or even abandoned.

It has been a great privilege to witness how so many events have continued to take place in recent months, those working in the arts sector demonstrating an admirable commitment to ensuring that cultural outlets remain available despite the unprecedented circumstances in which we are living.

The generous and enthusiastic support such events have received is testament to the central role that cultural work plays in so many of our lives, and the great importance of this most profound expression of our shared humanity through difficult and challenging times.

Let us ensure, as we continue our shared and complex journey towards a brighter future, that we do not allow the cultural space to become neglected or overlooked. Rather, let us continue to populate it with that which is so vital to the health and sustainability of our nation and our people – the work of gifted artists who have so much to offer our people, and all of our futures.

Beir beannacht.

Enjoy the festival.