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News - An award-winning production for Donnacha Dennehy's opera 'The Second Violinist'

Image: © Hugh O'Conor 2017
Monday, June 5, 2017
Donnacha Dennehy has a soundworld all of his own. 

The Wire
Composer Donnacha Dennehy and writer/director Enda Walsh's newest collaboration, The Second Violinist, is a thriller opera which dramatizes the surreal mental breakdown of a lonely, Gesualdo-obsessed musician as he prepares for a performance.

The Second Violinist, which premieres July 26-30 at Ireland's Galway International Festival, is commissioned and premiered by Wide Open Opera and Landmark Productions (who also commissioned Dennehy and Walsh's widely seen and praised earlier collaboration, The Last Hotel).

This chamber opera is a work of simultaneous layers in musical structure, drama, and staging, including the title character's online relationship with a young woman, a set design of three distinct scenes and levels, and the subtext of an 'opera within an opera'. The central character's obsession with Gesualdo is reflected in the Renaissance master's madrigal texts found in the libretto and lingering echoes on Dennehy's score which delves deeply into the use of overtones.

Dennehy notes: 'Subtext is as important as text to me. The music, as it were, powers the subtext; and an important ingredient in the music for The Second Violinist is a thread made of deconstructed, re-fashioned strains of Gesualdo. The main protagonist's interest in the music of Gesualdo is sporadically made explicit in the actual text of this opera (especially in the projected messages between him and Scarlett38) but it carries even greater portent in the score. These strains even inform the flowering overtone textures that become ever more radiant as the opera proceeds, creating a friction between the almost ecstatic luminosity of the score and the brutal reality of the plot'.

Enda Walsh directs this premiere production which features one of Ireland's leading actors Aaron Monaghan in the titular role. Also featured in the cast are singers Máire Flavin, Sharon Carty, and Benedict Nelson. Ryan McAdams conducts the Crash Ensemble and the Wide Open Opera Chorus.

On Saturday, June 3 2017 at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival in Austria, this premiere production of The Second Violinist was awarded Fedora's 2017 Generali Prize for Opera. This prize of €150,000 is given to support future international co-productions. Co-producers for The Second Violinist include The Galway International Arts Festival and The Dublin Theater Festival. Additional performances will take place in Dublin October 2-8 2017. (More information on subsequent international performances will be announced soon.)

Fedora, the European Circle of Philanthropists of Opera and Ballet, is a privately funded, non-profit organization, created in Paris in January 2014. Fedora has established two prizes that are awarded to promising teams of co-producing partners and artists, who collaborate on the creation of new opera or ballet co-productions. The network federates 79 organizational members, as well as individual and corporate donors in 20 countries. The mission is to nurture European innovation and creativity through a Prize competition that supports new opera and ballet projects, created by emerging artists and realized in form of co-productions.

Video: Donnacha Dennehy and Enda Walsh discuss The Second Violinist

ScoresOnDemand: explore Dennehy's scores

For more information about The Second Violinist, please contact Peggy Monastra and visit

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