The festival organisers are committed to providing access to local children and in helping to build music and opera audiences of the future. President Michael D Higgins was the guest of honor at the festivals’ Dress Rehearsal along with 200 local school children on Friday 1st June as part of the Lismore Opera Festival’s Schools Education and Audience Development Programme. Following a pilot programme in 2011, 200 local school children from Waterford, Cork and Tipperary were invited to attend the dress rehearsal on the Friday night. The children were given opera notes in advance of the performance. The opera was explained to the students beforehand and the students got a glimpse behind the scenes of one of the most exciting art forms and for most, it was their first experience of opera.


Excerpt from President Higgins speech at the inaugural LOF Schools Education and Audience Development Programme.

I am delighted to be here today to officially inaugurate this Schools Access Programme and I would like to congratulate everybody involved in the creation of this wonderful concept. I would like to thank Jennifer O’Connell for issuing the invitation to attend this evening.

In June, 2010, a small group of people with a love for music, organised an opera festival in the West Waterford region and the Lismore Opera Festival was initiated. I understand that one of the orchestra members requested to bring some children from the Dolphin’s Barn Music Project to see the dress rehearsal in your second year and it was such a success that it has become incorporated into Lismore Opera Festival’s annual programme in an effort to expand the audience base and heighten awareness of the beauty of opera.

Music is such a powerful medium and the Lismore Opera Festival has been working tirelessly promoting the beauty and relevance of opera. It is wonderful to witness results of the drive and enthusiasm of such dedicated people making opera more accessible and connected to audiences in such an inclusive and authentic manner.

There are 200 children present this evening from Ring (Gaeltacht area), Cappoquin, Lismore, Dungarvan, Fermoy and Youghal and you will have the opportunity to be a part of music and singing on the operatic stage and to witness firsthand how live performances are produced. It is an excellent opportunity to heighten awareness of this art form.

It’s very fitting that this occasion is taking place in such beautiful and atmospheric surroundings, on the grounds of Lismore Castle.

The organisers have done a marvellous job transforming the stables area into a performance area (little opera house) for the occasion.

Lismore Opera Festival was founded by a group of people with a love for opera and music and an idea to bring it to this beautiful part of Ireland. The festival provides opportunities for Irish singers, and it creates seasonal employment, stimulating the local economy. I am reminded of my inaugural speech when I spoke about the importance of working in partnership and inclusion, and this festival epitomises partnership as professionals and volunteers work together drawing on the goodwill and support of the local community. It is growing in support and standing both nationally and internationally.

Quotes from a teacher and student who participated in the 2012 Schools Education programme

I attach Lauren Mulvihill’s review of The Barber of Seville. Lauren is in Third Year, starting Junior Cert English this morning. I asked her on Friday to write a review, and it arrived yesterday. She is a gifted writer who won a national story-writing competition last year. Part of her prize was a trip to London where she had a meeting with a book publisher! I attach one of the photos we took in the gardens on Friday night, and Lauren is the girl on the right hand side, wearing a hat!

I would like to express our deep appreciation of the invitation to take our students to the opera. We all had a fantastic night, found every aspect of the performance excellent. One of the teachers who came with the group was retiring on Friday, so what a way to celebrate the day! I hope that we might get to see The Marriage of Figaro next year!

You are doing tremendous work to encourage young people to get involved in the Arts, and our Art and Music departments are extremely grateful for the opportunities being offered to our students here in our own County.

My youngest son Brian is studying music at Cork School of Music, and I was so impressed on Friday night that I phoned on Saturday morning, bought two tickets for Sunday night and went a second time with him. It was brilliant again!

Kind regards

Dorothy Hughes
Principal – Ard Scoil na nDeise

David Ross Foundation

My Foundation is committed to broadening the horizons of all young people, and our experience shows the inspirational power of top quality classical music. We are delighted to be working with the Lismore Opera Festival for the second year, and continuing our partnership to educate and give children a foundation in the beauty of music for life.”

David Ross, Founder David Ross Foundation

Professional mentor programme

We also have an LOF professional mentor programme which offers young people the opportunity to work alongside skilled and experienced professionals working on our opera productions including, lighting, sound, direction, wardrobe, hair & makeup.

LOF’s Master Class programme also invites children from schools to witness the preparations of young artists under the guidance a professional.

“The Barber of Seville” – Review by Lauren Mulvihill – 15 years old

As someone who has never attended and ordinarily wouldn’t express a wish to attend an opera, it’s fairly easy to see why I arrived at the performance of Rossini’s “the Barber of Seville” on the 1st of June with relatively low expectations of how I would enjoy the show. Like most uncultured people of my age, I had decided beforehand that I was likely to be bored stiff listening to arias and harpsichords while not understanding a word of the Italian lyrics. But I’m extremely glad to say-and this is something I rarely enjoy admitting to-that my closed-minded expectations disappeared entirely as soon as I sat down.

The Barber of Seville as we now know it was written in 1773 by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais and composed by Gioachino Rossini. It is the first in a trilogy of plays by Beaumarchais, and takes place in Seville, Spain. It opens with us discovering that Count Almaviva has fallen in love with a girl named Rosina, and enlists the help of the Barber of the play’s title, Figaro, to win her over. But the Count and Figaro have a problem: Rosina’s guardian and villain of the show, Dr. Bartolo, also wants to marry Rosina, so Count Almaviva must be clever in order to marry Rosina himself.

Before talking about the opera itself, I first of all need to compliment the staging. The opera took place in a marquee, which had been set in front of what I presume to be old stables in the gardens of Lismore Castle, which is an undeniably beautiful place anyway. If I had seen the crumbling walls and stone courtyard with its water fountain- and also the natural light of the evening, which was used brilliantly to document the time passing, either intentionally or otherwise-in any other setting, I would have sworn to you that we were actually in a small Spanish village, rather than a castle courtyard in Ireland (although it has to be said I wouldn’t mind going to either place).

The orchestra, who had been placed into a corner and were referenced to by the characters in the opera quite a few times to good effect, was quite small and only consisted of about six people. But this worked much better than it would have with a larger orchestra, as the violins, cellos, harpsichord and flutes’ gave the opera’s music a romantic quality that complimented the story well.

The play itself was excellently performed. According to my programme, Pervin Chakar, who played Rosina, is a “mezzo soprano” singer, which means she has a lower range than that of a soprano singer, but I was still genuinely surprised that any glass in the area didn’t shatter when she hit her highest notes. Owen Gilhooly (Figaro) Javier Abreu (Almaviva) and Damon Nester Ploumis (Dr. Bartolo) were also all brilliant leading men, as were the cast of secondary and tertiary characters that appeared throughout the opera. The director’s eye for detail could also be seen when Bartolo entered reading what I saw was a Spanish newspaper!

The Barber of Seville is a comic opera, but since I’m guessing the vast majority of the audience didn’t speak Italian, most of its comedy was physical. I was immensely impressed that the actors managed to do all the energetic movements and jumping around that physical comedy requires while all the while their voices remained at a consistently high standard, not faltering once. It’s hard to make an audience laugh so much when they can’t understand a word of what you’re saying, but they managed it.

Also in attendance was President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, who as a poet and former Minister for Arts and Culture is well known to enjoy these kind of events. Before the opera began, he gave a speech telling us how wonderful the opera was and told the students in the audience how it’s important for young people to enjoy the arts in every form. He also threw in a few sentences as Gaielge, and must have been pleased when they fitted the language into the opera, too (Bartolo counted napkins as haon, dó, trí, ceathair…)!

Finally, I want to congratulate everyone involved in the opera-the director, musicians, actors and stage assistants-for putting on such a good show and thank Lismore Opera Festival for inviting the Árd Scoil students to attend. I think it’s safe to say we all had a fantastic night!