Wednesday 24th April 2024 at 7pm

About the speaker

Dr Maria McHale is a Lecturer in Musicology at TU Dublin Conservatoire. She undertook a PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London with a study of British musical culture at the turn of the twentieth century entitled: ‘A Singing People: English Vocal Music and Nationalist Debate, 1880-1920’. Her research is concerned with musical culture in fin-de-siècle Ireland and Britain; music and theatre; opera in Ireland; reception history and historiography.  She has received funding from the Irish Research Council for: Music at the Abbey Theatre and Music in Ireland: 1916 and Beyond. She welcomes enquires from prospective research students in relation to these and related areas.

Dr McHale spoke at the June 2023 symposium in Dublin, "Irish-American Music Cultures", hosted by TU Dublin Conservatoire and inspired by the music score collection at the Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco.

Maria was Honorary Secretary for the Society for Musicology in Ireland (2009-2012) and was re-elected to the SMI’s Council (2012-2015 and 2021-24). She is a founder member of the Conservatoire’s Research Foundation for Music in Ireland and on the Editorial Board for the Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland (2019–23) and the Advisory Board for Irish Musical Studies (since 2020). She was both Executive Editor and a Subject Editor for the Encyclopaedia for Music in Ireland (2013) and co-edited Documents of Irish Music History in the Long Nineteenth Century (2019).

Lecture theme:

‘New and old, Gaelic and modern’: Irish opera and the Gaelic Revival

Among the collections at the Princess Grace Irish Library is a copy of Robert O’Dwyer’s Irish-language opera, Eithne (1910). The work was performed in Dublin to great acclaim in May 1910. What is remarkable about the score held by the library is that it contains a large number of signatures dated 21 May 1910, among them Robert O’Dwyer’s along with an array of singers including Joseph O’Mara and Evelyn Duffy. Therefore, this copy of the score captures some of the excitement of that particular night which was the last of a week-long run of the opera at the Gaiety Theatre. The work would not be heard again in Ireland until 2017, when a concert performance of Eithne took place at the National Concert Hall, Dublin.

Although Eithne was billed as the first opera in the Irish language, some seven years earlier, another Irish composer, Thomas O’Brien Butler, had written an opera called Muirgheis, which he also described as the first opera in Irish. This talk will consider both works and how each composer could make this claim. It will also consider discussions and debates around the works at the time and situate them in the cultural context of the early twentieth-century Gaelic Revival. 

The talk will include play excerpts from the opera as there is a live recording online of a concert performance (2017) from the National Concert Hall in Dublin.

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