Opera in Ireland and this website

REMEMBERING PADDY BRENNAN (30th Dec 1942- 3rd Aug 2022)

Paddy Brennan was and is the reason that you are looking at this website today. He will long be remembered for diligently archiving and enthusiastically sharing his extensive knowledge about opera (and particularly opera in Ireland) with anybody who expressed an interest. Although Paddy is no longer around to guide us, work will continue on this website to preserve as much of that knowledge as possible. At the time of writing, we reckon we’re about three-fifths of the way through uploading Paddy’s collection, so there’s lots still to come.

Paddy was always a passionate advocate for the achievements of the DGOS, to which he contributed as a chorister for 35 years. Listen to him here back in May 2003 regaling an audience in Manchester about the rich history of the DGOS and the significant singers who visited Dublin:
R.I.P. Paddy – we will miss you

You’ve found us! … do stay for a while and have a browse around! You can explore using the pull-down menus (above) or the search box (below). If you’re looking for recordings, you can click here. We now have well over 1000 pages on this site full of material charting the history of opera in Ireland.

For many, opera performances are ephemeral and transitory: the curtain rises, the performance takes place, the curtain falls there is applause and there it ends. But the aim of this web archive is to compile and preserve all there is of the rich performance history of live opera in Ireland.

During 2022 we’re continuing to add large amounts of archival material to this site (programmes, photographs and press cuttings will be added chronologically* – along with recordings where these exist) – so what you will see unfolding is a “work in progress” – and it will undoubtedly remain so. YOUR contributions and corrections are both welcomed and encouraged to help ensure that this tale is told as accurately as it can be...if you can’t see it then the chances are that we don’t yet have it but would love to add it. Please – if you can – help us to identify things we’re scratching our heads over!

So browse – download – listen – read … but above all, contribute if you can! We’d love to give a permanent home to all memories, photos (formal or informal – onstage, backstage or front-of-house), recordings, press clippings, reviews, anecdotes and recollections – yours, your parents’ or your grandparents’….

Oh, and do write to us – we’d love to hear from you!


A short history of DGOS/Opera Ireland 1941-2010

the traviata photo 83.jpg
La Traviata, DGOS, 1983

EXCITING NEWS – 23rd August 2021

We have acquired a significant collection of operatic ephemera from the family of the late Maureen Lemass. In addition to her Dublin operatic connections dating back to the 1960s and her enduring close friendship with soprano Magda Olivero, the archive includes a substantial collection of material relating to Maureen’s father (the noted baritone William Lemass) and mother Lucy Leenane, the foremost concert pianist of her time (and, on occasion, accompanist – she played for Lauritz Melchior’s recital at the old Dublin Theatre Royal); the collection dates back to the very earliest years of the Twentieth Century and even includes a 78rpm recording of William J. Lemass (which we hope to share on this website in due course); our aim is to populate pages on the website with this new material over the coming months. A small selection from the new material may be viewed below:


This web archive – OPERA IN IRELAND – was mentioned by Evelyn Grant during a recent RTE LyricFM programme – we get commendable mentions at 1:26:07 and again at 1:55:30 – Thanks Evelyn!


Do you – or your parents – or grandparents – have any “stuff” which might be of interest to the story of opera in Ireland? If so, please do make contact!


WEBSITE PROGRESS REPORT (updated when changes or additions are made):

  • * – as of 20th November 2022:
  • all of the surviving Dublin Operatic Society (DOS) archival material has been uploaded.
  • Pages listing Dublin Grand Opera Society (DGOS) seasons have been completed – chronologically – with all of their surviving archival content (press cuttings, photographs, programmes, etc.) up to and including the Winter 1993 season, although we are still awaiting receipt of a small number of audio recordings from the early 1980s. Work on populating pages relating to the later 1990s and beyond continues as time permits. Extracts from “Love and Music: The Glorious History of the Dublin Grand Opera Society” by Gus Smith (1998) have been added where appropriate.
  • Many additional production photographs and backstage photographs from the 1980s and beyond continue to be sprinkled in, as and when time permits where appropriate, throughout the years covered by the DGOS.
  • We’ve almost completed the Chorus Masters page, but we’d welcome assistance in tracking down photos and biographical details for Ann-Marie Gabard, Maureen Dillon and Teresa Owens.
  • We have now completed audio restoration work on Luciano Pavarotti Gaiety Concert 20th December 1979.
  • New materials related to the touring activities of the Carl Rosa Opera Company in Ireland have been posted.
  • Material relating to Irish National Opera 1965-1985
  • We have now turned our attentions to the Maureen Lemass collection and items relating to her father: the celebrated Irish baritone William J. Lemass and to his appearances with the Walter McNally Opera Company and the BriSan Opera Company
  • Uploading continues as time permits – much material still remains to be uploaded from the archive:
  • CURRENTLY IN PREPARATION:
  • Recording of concert given at the Gaiety Theatre by Piero Cappucilli in 1982
  • More material relating to the career of W. J. Lemass, including his only known recording
  • Much-enlarged section on Dermot Troy, including a number of audio documentaries
  • Much-enlarged section on Joseph O’Mara, containing all of the current research into his performance history and background, and an audio programme of memories
  • Much-enlarged section covering regional opera within Ireland
  • Biographical research on the extended family of May Devitt
  • A section on Walter McNally
  • A section on J. C. Browner
  • and finally (sightly longer term – probably commencing Spring 2023) a substantial new section: “The Musical Life of Dublin 1820-1954”, comprising a year-by-year account of classical-music-in-performance in the capital charting and reconstructing seasons by the Moody-Manners, O’Mara and Carl Rosa Companies, occasional tours by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, in addition to the activities of the Walter McNally, BriSan, Godwin and Fitzgerald Companies; also covering Vocal and Instrumental Recitals by visiting international musicians and local amateurs alike.

WHO ARE WE?

Paddy Brennan (whose collection forms the basis of this website) became interested in opera back in the 1950s and joined the DGOS Chorus with whom he chalked-up over 600 performances on the stage of the Gaiety and elsewhere. Along the way, he was instrumental in preserving archive materials from such important figures as Bertie Timlin, Freddie Caracciolo, Larry Dowd and Maureen Lemass, whose collections were dutifully rescued from oblivion as well as photograph collections from Agnes Fox, Minnie O’Toole, Maura Mooney and Monica Condron. In 1998 – in advance of the publication of Gus Smith’s historical monograph on the DGOS – he painstakingly compiled a detailed chronology of performances & casts; this and a subsequent exhibition at the National Concert Hall (in 1991) provided the foundations of an archive which Paddy diligently curated and catalogued during his life and we are now able to share online.

Andrew Percival (webmaster) first visited Dublin to sing in the DGOS Chorus in 1988 along with a party of singers from the RNCM in Manchester; returning for five subsequent opera seasons to sing and thereafter to hear the operas up until the closure of the company. Along the way, his encouragement to first of all transfer the dusty old tape recordings from open reels into digital formats and then to commence the epic task of scanning and uploading other material has ensured that OPERA IN IRELAND has become a rich online resource.