The Wexford Festival of Good Singing and Cultural Stuff

When you think of Wexford you think of many things. For most of you, these things will be varying degrees of concern at your inability to think of anything to do with Wexford that doesn’t involve cheese. American Naval boffins will think of Commander Barry, the founder of the US Navy. Sports followers will launch into a chorus of an appropriate song and mutter uncharitable things about Kilkenny. The chronically confused will think “Ah yes, Wexford, that’s the county that looks like a partridge if you really squint”.
From the Opera buffs, however, there will be a protracted silence. That’s because they are all in Wexford for the World Famous Festival.

I will forgive you if you have never heard of it before now. I had never heard of it before I moved here and I am very good looking and clever. I will also forgive if you are now frowning in quiet bewilderment and/or saying aloud “What on earth is an opera festival doing in Wexford?” because I, too, expressed such sentiments when I first came across it. Eventually I concluded that, long ago, somebody decided opera would be a great way to relax the cows and increase the milk yields. Thus the festival was founded.
I’m not a great one for opera. Handel’s Messiah and Madame Butterfly are the only two I know properly but I like the former so much the phrase “despise-sed and reject-ted” has entered my personal lexicon of abstruse phraseology. If something goes wrong it is declared to be because I am despise-sed and reject-ted.
My opera education is not likely to be furthered by the presence of the World Famous Festival. They only seem to perform the most obscure operas known to man and, if the word from the street is to be believed, there usually turns out to be a reason for this previous obscurity.
This I do not mind because during the opera festival, other good things happen which I do know about and can appreciate. Art exhibitions.

For the duration of the festival, everywhere in the town and many of the environs there is some kind of exhibition on. The shear variety is astounding. From tinpot anaemic watercolour and garish oils of horses to Louis le Brocquy and Jack Yeats. To give a little perspective to you who don’t appreciate I am reaching Adam Hart-Davis levels of enthusiasm over this, it’s like going to Basingstoke and finding it’s full of Lichtenstein and Hockney. These are important artists.

Unfortunately, the presence of such illustrious works brings with it a breed of Irish folk I am keen to avoid. The Irish Nouveau Riche or, as I like to call them, The Iriche.
Being a Republic, the Irish do not recognise titles and the like. Unlike we Brits, they do not know their place. Instead they seem to have evolved a class system based around the amount of money one has. To show everybody else how much money you have, your hairdresser will make you look like a poodle that has spent too long in a wind tunnel and your personal fashion adviser will dress you in hallucinogenic tweed with extra shoulder pads. To complete the look, you must regard on people who are not part of your set with deep scorn and flick them from your path with your oversized handbag.
In a gallery they will be clustered around the work of the most famous artist while the gallery people fawn, barely stopping short of offering to chew their Atkins friendly hors d’oeuvres for them. The rest of us plebs must stand as a respectful distance and not interrupt even to, say, request a catalogue or purchase some Art ourselves. The Iriche may be a distinct minority but they certainly manage to leave an impact on a room.

In other news, I fear I am coming down with pharyngitus or however it is spelled. My throat feels as though it is filled with glass.

I also notice that a new gallery has opened in Wexford town. Rather bizarrely it is called the Jonathon Swift gallery. I have no idea what the Stena Fast Ferry has to do with visual art, but there you go.