Speech by Minister of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, at the opening of 2018 Wexford Festival Opera
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Mayor, ministers, deputies, councillors, ladies and gentlemen,
Is breá liom go bhfuil mé anseo libh anocht i Loch Garman san áras iontach seo le ceann de na féilte is gliondaraí in Éirinn a cheiliúradh libh.
Every year, as the shortest, darkest day approaches one of the brightest lights in Irish culture is switched on. It is dazzling, it is exciting, it brings Wexford intensely alive and it brings visitors from around Ireland and around the world.
Wexford Festival Opera is intrinsically and completely of this place and of this community. In a homogenised and globalised world, where almost everything is transportable and transferable, this festival is unique to its place. It is rooted in you, the community who imagined it and who nurture it.
Now we are about to embark on seventeen days of opera, concerts, recitals, and conversations in the many beautiful spaces Wexford has to offer. The town will be a unique, delightful concert of sounds, sights and people. Dark days will be pushed back as we are drawn to the lights and to the sound of singing.
Civic pride is something that Wexford can give lessons in. Perhaps it is the intimacy of the place, and the small scale of its old streets. But from a small scale, a great global opera festival, known and regarded across the world, has grown over generations. The heart of this great endeavour is you, the local community. Without you this festival would not have begun and could not have continued.
We are promised not only beautiful music, but great dramatic performances, wonderful scenery and costumes and so much more. Violent and lurid affairs full of greed, evil and revenge, a love triangle with unlikely characters, a dramatic dinner party and some good old-fashioned murder will all play their part – this is the joy and the wonder of opera.
None of this would be possible without David Agler and the board who lead this festival so tirelessly and with such ambition.
In opera, Wexford is a global leader. In the arts, Wexford is a national example.
This Government is deeply appreciative of this and is strongly supportive of the arts and Ireland’s arts community. The Taoiseach has made a public commitment to double funding for culture and the arts by 2025. Last week in Budget 2019 I was delighted to increase funding for arts and culture by over €22m. This includes doubling the increase in funding for the Arts Council by €6m to €75m.
But closer to home, I am conscious that we are celebrating, the 10th Anniversary of the opening of the magnificent Opera House here in Wexford. And while it’s auditorium looks as good as the day on which it opened, we all aware that every house requires continued investment to keep it in shape.
So I am delighted tonight to announce that my Department will be investing €1m in necessary updating and refurbishment works over the next 3 years to protect the State’s significant investment in this building and to ensure that National Opera House continues to operate at the highest quality levels for many years to come.
To quote the legendary Maria Callas:
“An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I’ve left the opera house.”
Molaim an ceol, molaim an dráma, agus molaim go mór sibh. Go n-éirí go breá le féile an bliana seo. And now it is my great pleasure and honour to declare the sixty-seventh Wexford Opera Festival open.