seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Composer Siobhán Cleary

Siobhán Cleary, composer, is born in Dublin on May 10, 1970. Her most successful compositions are her orchestral works Alchemy and Cokaygne and her choral piece Theophilus Thistle and the Myth of Miss Muffett. Her opera Vampirella is first performed in Dublin in March 2017. She is a member of Aosdána.

Cleary starts to compose from an early age, often writing pieces while she is supposed to be practising at the piano. When she begins to study music at Maynooth University, she is initially inspired by Luciano Berio‘s Sinfonia, and soon afterwards by the works of the Irish composer Gerald Barry, the Frenchman Olivier Messiaen and the Hungarian György Ligeti. She continues her studies at Queen’s University Belfast and Trinity College, Dublin. In addition, she follows courses in composition with the Italian composer Franco Donatoni and the Dutchman Louis Andriessen and receives private tuition from the American Tom Johnson and the South African Kevin Volans. She also studies film scoring with the Italian composer Ennio Morricone and the American Don Brandon Ray.

Inspired by the alchemists’ Opus Alchymicum which describes how cheaper metals are transmuted into gold, Cleary’s orchestral work Alchemy (2001) is, like the stages in the Opus, presented in four parts: it evolves from the slow nigrendo, the moderate albedo, the strong citronatus, and the burning rubedo. The work is performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in January 2002.

Cleary’s tone poem Cokaygne (2009), which, like Alchemy, is commissioned by RTÉ for the National Symphony Orchestra, is based on a poem and old sources which evoke a land of extreme luxury and contentment. The elaborately orchestrated piece is performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in November 2009, Vladimir Altschuler conducting. It is performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra once again in June 2016, this time under the baton of Alan Buribayev.

Cleary’s choral work Theophilus Thistle and the Myth of Miss Muffett (2010), commissioned by the Cork International Choral Festival, is first performed in April 2011 by Chamber Choir Ireland directed by Paul Hillier. The work is based on a series of tongue twisters and other strange combinations of words popular in various European languages and dialects, moving from Italy, through Germany and Spain, finishing in Ireland. In 2013, it is performed twice by Chamber Choir Ireland in Dublin and Cork in connection with Ireland’s presidency of the European Union. The journalist and music critic Terry Blain comments on the choir’s “dazzingly virtuosic performance” in Belfast in 2013, qualifying the piece as “a tour de force of 21st century vocal chicanery, a clever and richly entertaining composition.” Theophilus Thistle is also performed the same year in the United States as part of the “Imagine Ireland” festival.

The chamber opera Vampirella with a libretto by Katy Hayes is first performed by students from the Royal Irish Academy of Music and the Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art at Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre in March 2017. Based on a short story by Angela Carter telling how a young English soldier is seduced by a vampire countess, it is directed by Conor Hanratty and conducted by Andrew Synnott. Michael Dervan of The Irish Times finds the electronic sounds in the score particularly effective, commenting, “Perhaps this is a case of a genuinely electronic opera trying to break out of a more conventional mold.”

In 1996, Cleary receives a young artists award from Pépinières européennes pour jeunes artistes, followed in 1997 by the first prize in the Arklow Music Festival Composers’ Competition. In 2008, she is invited to become a member of Aosdána, an Irish association of creative artists.


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Birth of Albert Rosen, Czech/Irish-Naturalized Conductor

Albert Rosen, Austrian-born and Czech/Irish-naturalised conductor associated with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, the Wexford Festival Opera, the National Theatre in Prague and J. K. Tyl Theatre in Plzeň (Pilsen), is born in Vienna on February 14, 1924. He has a strong affinity with the works of Czech composers such as Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák, Bohuslav Martinů, and Leoš Janáček.

Rosen’s mother is Czech, while his father’s family is Austrian-Jewish. After Anschluss of Austria in 1938 they move to Bratislava, and after the Slovak version of Nuremberg Laws comes to force in September 1941, he escapes discrimination and genocide via the Danube and the sea to Israel (then Mandatory Palestine). There he works in the Shaʽar_HaGolan kibbutz, manually and as an amateur chorus master, until 1945, when he returns to Bratislava.

In 1946–47 Rosen studies piano, composition and conducting at the Vienna Academy of Music with Joseph Marx and Hans Swarowsky, and continues to study conducting at the Prague Conservatory under Pavel Dědeček and Alois Klíma (1947–48). He starts his career in J. K. Tyl Theatre in Plzeň (Pilsen) as a correpetiteur, assistant conductor and chorus master (1949–52) and conductor (1953–59), participating on the production of 11 operas, 19 ballets and, as the composer of stage music, 17 dramas. In 1960 he is engaged by National Theatre in Prague, to be appointed in 1964 the chief conductor of Smetana Theatre, the National Theatre’s opera stage. He holds this position until 1971, conducting 11 ballets and 9 opera productions.

In 1965 Rosen comes to Ireland for the first time to conduct the National Symphony Orchestra (under its former name, the Radio Telefís Éireann Symphony Orchestra) at the Wexford Festival. This leads to regular appearances at the festival until 1994, conducting 18 Wexford productions, more than anyone else. In 1969 he becomes the orchestra’s chief conductor, until he becomes principal guest conductor in 1981. In 1994 he is honoured with the title Conductor Laureate of the orchestra.

Rosen’s operatic repertoire includes standard works such as Carmen (Bizet), Tosca and Madama Butterfly (Puccini), Il trovatore and Don Carlos (Verdi), Lohengrin (Wagner), Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti), Otello and L’italiana in Algeri (Rossini), Káťa Kabanová (Janáček), La Wally (Catalani), The Bartered Bride (Smetana), and Salome (Richard Strauss). He also conducted unusual works such as Smetana’s The Two Widows and The Kiss, and Dvořák’s Rusalka, The Devil and Kate and The Jacobin.

In October 1978, in Dublin and Cork, Rosen conducts the National Symphony Orchestra in only the second and third performances of André Tchaikowsky‘s 2nd Piano Concerto, Op. 4, which are the first performances with the composer as soloist. He is to record the work in 1982, again with Tchaikowsky at the piano, but the composer becomes ill and the recording is cancelled. His other work with the NSO includes standard orchestral repertoire as well as major pieces such as Olivier Messiaen‘s Turangalîla-Symphonie and Gustav Mahler‘s Symphony No. 8 (Symphony of a Thousand). In 1992, the orchestra tours ten cities in Germany, having a major success with Die Fledermaus in Stuttgart.

Rosen makes his American debut at the San Francisco Opera in 1980, in Janáček’s Jenůfa. In Australia, he is chief conductor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra from 1983 until 1985, and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in 1986. He conducts the British premiere of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov‘s opera Christmas Eve with English National Opera in 1988. He becomes music director of the Irish National Opera in 1993.

Rosen often conducts the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland during the 1990s, in challenging works such as the tone poems and An Alpine Symphony of Richard Strauss. Other opera orchestras he conducts included those of the Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, Vancouver Opera, San Diego Opera, and the Dublin Grand Opera Society.

Rosen becomes an Irish citizen by naturalisation. His own conducting students include John Finucane.

Rosen dies at the age of 73 in Dublin on May 23, 1997, of lung cancer.

(Pictured: Albert Rosen conducts the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra in St. Patrick’s Training College in Drumcondra, Dublin, in 1972)