The National Opera House in Wexford, Ireland by Keith Williams Architects and the Irish Government’s Office of Public Works Architects Department, was one of Ireland’s most important cultural regeneration projects of the first decade of the 21st century. The multi-award winning venue, constructed in the heart of medieval maritime Wexford, contains the main opera house, the O’Reilly Theatre (780 – 840 seats), full flytower and backstage and the Jerome Hynes, a transformable second space of 170 seats, together with rehearsal, production facilities, bars, café and foyer spaces.
Carefully integrated into the historic fabric of Wexford’s medieval centre behind reinstated terraced buildings, the scale of the building and its contribution to Wexford’s silhouette only becomes apparent when viewed from the banks of the River Slaney. From there, the new flytower appears in the skyline alongside the spires of Wexford’s two Pugin inspired churches, and the Italianate tower of the Franciscan Friary, announcing the presence of an exceptional new cultural building in the historic townscape.
Internally, the main auditorium, inspired both by the form of a cello and the curves of a classic horseshoe form operatic space, has been lined in black American walnut whilst the seating has been finished in pale purple leather giving a rich sense of materiality to this spectacular theatrical space.
Though primarily conceived for Wexford’s autumn opera festival, the new building is intended to operate as a year round arts venue, for both additional Wexford Festival productions and visiting companies.
The award winning building was officially opened by Mr Brian Cowen TD An Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) on 5 September 2008, whilst the first opera took place in the new house on 16 October 2008 with a performance of Rimsky-Korsakoff’s Snegourchka (the Snow Maiden).
Described as one of the great small opera houses of the world, with exceptional acoustic, the multi-award winning building was officially designated as Ireland’s National Opera House by the Irish Government in 2014, was shortlisted for the RIAI Triennial Gold Medal 2017, and provided the base from which Wexford won the coveted Best Festival Award at the 2017 International Opera Awards.