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Reviews of Lalla-Roukh, Wexford Festival Opera 2022


Phelan is a storyteller with a gift for comedy, a director with a light touch whose eye for comedic detail extends well beyond main characters. Her work can be full of activity without ever seeming either fussy or too busy.

Michael Dervan, The Irish Times

Orpha Phelan’s production of Félicien David’s 1852 opera “Lalla-Roukh,” for the want of a better word, was simply ‘magical.’ In Phelan’s hands, this simple tale became another world, a world of make-believe, populated by faeries, banshees, sprites, sorceresses and other colorful characters taken from Irish folklore and elsewhere. She created stunning mise-en-scènes, full of movement, dance and color, with plenty of fun added to the mix for good measure....From the outset, Phelan showed real skill in defining and relaying the narrative in a sharply focused, inventive and amusing way.

Alan Neilson,

Top quality, endlessly entertaining mix that sends the audience out into the night on an unmistakeable high. Director Orpha Phelan and designer Madeleine Boyd come up with colourful and appealing, eclectic visuals that nod to the Irish origins of the story. Phelan also swaps the opera’s spoken dialogue in French for a new narration in English, written by Timothy Knapman and shrewdly delivered by actor Lorcan Cranitch, who plays a passing itinerant with literary leanings. 

George Hall, The Stage *****

Orpha Phelan's imaginative new production of Félicien David's Lalla-Roukh at Wexford Festival.... She took the imaginative decision to have the entire tale conjured by the narrator and set in a more generic fantasy land...Orpha Phelan's production showed that with imagination and with winning performances, the French orientalist fantasy can work in other contexts.

Robert Hugill,

Orpha Phelan, the director of Félicien David’s 1862 opera-comique, maestra of “oomph”, Lalla-Roukh carried off the honours at this year’s festival. 

Gerald Malone,

Director Orpha Phelan opens all the story-books and brings a profusion of fairytale and mythical characters to life, with sorceresses, banshees, the children of Lir, and anyone else you can think of into the chorus line, along with a company of dancers constantly assembling and re-assembling themselves. It is like a premature Christmas treat – part-pantomime, part-ballet, part-opera, Lalla-Roukh is an infectiously charming variety show that takes us back to the theatrical entertainments of old. In its short season, Lalla-Roukh has already proved the Festival favourite, and it’s not hard to see or hear why tonight, with its catchy music and vivid staging. It receives enthusiastic applause from the full National Opera House, and certainly deserves to be seen much more widely.

Michael Lee, Golden Plec

Irish director Orpha Phelan has sought to add a sharp note to counterbalance the saccharine sappiness, excising the opéra-comique’s lengthy spoken dialogue and replacing it with a Narrator – played by the well-known Irish actor, Lorcan Cranitch – who serves as a framing device outside the drama and fills in the plot that would have been relayed by the original dialogue....Fairy-tales are timeless and at Wexford Festival Opera, Orpha Phelan has taken down a long-forgotten book from a dusty shelf and found a story which transfixes, taking us into other-worlds – 1860s Paris and fantastic lands – through the prism of today.

Claire Seymour, opera

...the best production of the three operas of the festival, from an outstanding Irishwoman, Orpha Phelan. Director Orpha Phelan sheds the now-dodgy orientalism, evolving a carnival from an Irish teashop – a lovely opening tableau in Madeleine Boyd’s classy designs – and the Opéra-Comique dialogue, giving a narrative role instead to Lorcan Cranitch as a trolley-wheeling Wexford seanchaí or storyteller. 

David Nice,

In her program note, director Orpha Phelan expressed her feeling that to replicate “a nineteenth century French oriental opera, with singers dressed in exotic Mughal and Kashmiri costumes” would be “not so appropriate in 2022.” Fortunately, Phelan and designer Madeleine Boyd managed to rustle up something just as colourful and appealing in visuals of their own, involving a chorus consisting of umpteen denizens of fairy tales with a contingent of toy soldiers to the fore. 

George Hall,

Phelan had inventive fun with it and so did we!

Roy Westbrook,

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