Johnny go to the Lough for new John Spillane opera

Johnny go to the Lough for new John Spillane opera
Singer/songwriter John Spillane is working on a new opera. Picture: Howard Crowdy

WORK is set to begin on a new opera penned by singer-songwriter John Spillane who came up with the idea during a walk to remember around Cork's iconic Lough.

The Cork star is currently in the pre-production phase of Irish language opera Legends of the Lough which will be staged at the Lough in collaboration with Corcadorca - a theatre company known for its performances in unusual venues.

In the last few years, John has been working on songs to feature in the production based on a theory around the supposed formation of the Lough. He recalled how it all began.

“I was walking around the Lough when I stumbled on a plaque detailing the story of “Fíor Uisce,” he said. “The legend goes back to a time when the lough didn't exist at all. In its place there was a beautiful green valley along with a castle and well. The king built a wall around the well and during a big party it overflowed and created the Lough. According to the story, the party still continues under the water in Tír na Nóg-the land of eternal youth. They say that if you look closely enough you can make out the top if the towers. If you listen closely enough you can hear their fairy music as long as there's a full moon out. The legend goes that whoever recovers the cup and brings it to the surface will break the spell and make the water disappear. After that everything will go on as before. The tale was written by Thomas Crofton Croker and published in 1820 in a book called Fairy Legends of the South of Ireland. While it's not widely known about today it was a big selling book in the UK at the time.” The musician is excited to be honing in on a rarely explored genre.

“Opera has been performed in French, German and Italian. However, there isn't even a word for opera in the Irish language. It's just referred to as Ceol Dramaíocht which translates as musical drama. There have been very few Irish operas, even fewer that we've actually heard of. If we can pull this off it will be incredible. I've never really been an opera head myself and would consider myself a folk musician. Nonetheles, I've always loved the melodies of opera and it has some brilliant moments.” The singer is excited to see his brainchild come to life by some of Cork's high profile opera stars.

“I've written 23 songs but the opera will only be an hour and a half so not all of them will be featured. What I have is still quite raw but it should hopefully be finished by around next month. The producer and director will be taking care of casting and the first read through is scheduled for this September.” John O'Brien has been announced as musical director with a remaining cast and crew yet to be revealed.

“The Lough is known to everyone locally so it's the perfect location for a Cork production.” Legends of the Lough is scheduled for bonfire night of 2018 and will be stages as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival John Spillane has made no secret of his love for the Irish language in the past, having released two albums almost entirely in Irish. This featured Irish poet Louis de Paor under the pseudonym "The Gaelic Hit Factory". The album of the same name was critically acclaimed and prompted Spillane and De Paor to join forces and win the Realta Irish song contest two years in a row.

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