A margarita is a cocktail consisting of tequila, triple sec, and lime or lemon juice, often served with salt or sugar on the rim of the glass. The drink is served shaken with ice, blended with ice, or without ice (Wiki).

A performance of Margherita, an opera by Jacopo Foroni (1824–1858), is rarer than the similar sounding cocktail. On Saturday evening we saw the final performance at Wexford.

In Rome last month we wanted to eat before Tosca which began at 8.00. The best restaurant, opposite the opera house, didn’t open until 7.00 which didn’t leave enough time. It stayed open after the opera. In Wexford Margherita also had an 8.00 curtain and our restaurant asked us to come at 5.30 for dinner. It was not open after the opera. Incidentally the restaurant in question in Wexford is La Côte specialising in fish and very good it was too.

Seeing an unknown opera is always exciting, if sometimes ultimately disappointing but Margherita worked for me in all departments. The music was undemanding but hugely enjoyable, reminding me of Verdi in the serious bits and Rossini in the comic scenes. The acoustics and sight-lines at Wexford are excellent but there has to be something to slightly irritate me and it was the audience who were very happy-clappy. After almost every number they would start clapping.

The Wexford production was set in a town in southern Italy in the aftermath of the Second World War. A painted gauze backdrop depicts the town as it had been with the Rococo facade of a church featuring prominently. When this is raised the bombed out ruins of the town are revealed. In the second half the backdrop reappears as a picture on the wall of a sitting room, a witty touch.

The townsfolk are straight out of a Fellini film; men in hats and cheap suits, women in floral aprons and cotton frocks. It created the period perfectly. The plot, incidentally, is mighty complicated but unlike many operas ends happily ever after and window boxes of geraniums appear on the sills of the blackened windows as cast and chorus get together for a final sing.

The cast of Margherita at Wexford Opera House. Photo: Clive Barda.

The staff at Wexford are volunteers and there are plenty of them. In Rome there was one bar for the whole house and three servers. Wexford has numerous bars and there were at least five people serving in the stalls bar. However, should you wish to have a drink in a real bar I must warn you that the opera house is on the only street in Wexford that does not have a bar, and thereby hangs a tale.

The cast of Margherita at Wexford Opera House. Photo: Clive Barda.

Early in the second half a klaxon went off accompanied by a pre-recorded message to evacuate the building immediately. There were 1,000 of us and we were all out in 3 1/2 minutes, thirty seconds ahead of their four minute target. However, there was no bar nearby so we hung around in the street for five minutes or so getting cold. I reckon the fresh air ensured I stayed awake for the rest of the opera.

On Sunday morning the river Slaney estuary is glittering in the sunshine; there is a day in Wexford and a night at the opera to look forward to.


One thought on “Margherita”

  1. I’ve not been to the Wexford Festival for decades but it always irritated me that dinner at White’s or The Talbot was at 5.30pm & over-copious (possibly 4 or 5 not very good courses, and no a la carte option) so it was very difficult to remain awake. Besides it interfered with lunch arrangements! Many friends going to the Festival in more recent years have stayed in nice private houses outside the town (for which a car is required) which offer options like soda bread & smoked salmon, soup, cold buffet of which something may be eaten before leaving for the opera and there is enough for a midnight feast after.

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