Orla Boylan, Robn Tritschler, Gavan Ring; Irish National Opera Chorus; RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra/Fergus Shell
RTÉ Lyric CD158 107:34 mins (2 discs)
Robert O’Dwyer’s Eithne, the first full-scale opera to be written in Irish, was commissioned for a festival in 1909 by the Gaelic League as part of efforts to stir a nationalist school of Irish classical music. Despite the work’s success and its subsequent revival the following year, Eithne was then neglected until 2017 when the newly formed Irish National Opera and RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra gave a special concert performance at Dublin’s National Concert Hall, captured in this premiere recording.
O’Dwyer used the local legend of ‘The bird of sweet music’ as the basis for Eithne (soprano Orla Boylan), inspired by Wagner’s success with teutonic mythology. The King of Ireland (baritone Gavan Ring), his heir Ceart (tenor Robin Tritschler) and sons Art and Neart find themselves in Tír na nÓg (a land of eternal youth) in pursuit of a mysterious bird (exquisitely, if not uniquely, characterised by the flute part). Their feathered friend is revealed to be Eithne, cursed daughter of the King of Tír na nÓg, who will be released from her avian form when a giant is defeated. The all-Irish cast’s engagingly dramatic performance does much to recommend the work.