Gavan Ring, Performance Considerations for Robert O’Dwyer’s Eithne (1909): A Contextual Study and Edited Vocal Score (DMusPerf, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2016)

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 Author:  Ring, Gavan 
 Title:  Performance Considerations for Robert O’Dwyer’s Eithne (1909): A Contextual Study and Edited Vocal Score 
 Degree, institution:  DMusPerf, Royal Irish Academy of Music 
 Status, year:  accepted, 2016 
 Volumes, pp.:  2 vols  
 Supervisor(s):  Denise Neary; Dr. Philip Graydon 
 Repository:  Royal Irish Academy of Music Library .   http://www.tara.tcd.ie/handle/2262/76198 
 General specialism:  Musicology: Performance Studies 
 Content, key terms:  Persons:
Genres, instruments: 
Robert O'Dwyer
Irish Art Music, Irish Opera
 Abstract: 

Robert O’Dwyer’s Eithne (1909) is recognised as the first opera to be performed in the Irish language. Based on the Irish folklore legend, Éan an cheoil bhinn or ‘bird of the sweet music’, the work is at once representative of the late-romantic era in classical music and the broader Irish cultural revival. Despite this apparently strong cultural locus, however, an adequate and fair reception of the musical and dramatic merits of Eithne has been severely obstructed. As a result, the work has not been performed for over one hundred years.

Current research suggests that, rather than on the basis of artistic merit, Eithne’s neglect has been motivated by the partiality of a complex political and cultural environment. The condition of cultural polarisation as a result of the troubled Anglo Irish saga of sectarian tension beset upon Irish society for centuries has greatly inhibited the understanding of classical music as a national art form in the Irish cultural imagination. Furthermore, despite Eithne’s embryonic link with fin-du-siècle Irish cultural revivals, these movements did little to assist a universal cultural acceptance of the work due to factors such as the subconscious isolation of the Irish language as the mother tongue of Irish Catholic nationalism and the seizure of classical music constructs as vital tools in the creation of contemporary (primarily English) literature.

Given the drastic improvements in Anglo-Irish relations over the past two decades, there have been fresh calls for culturally maligned works such as Eithne to be performed again and re-evaluated in an attempt to re-examine the role of opera within the cultural history of Ireland, redress the taciturn attitude to Irish opera in general and, simultaneously, rescue some very fine works from the backwaters of history.

In response to this entreaty, this thesis provides a revised contextual study of Eithne, the first revised, performance-focused edition of Eithne’s vocal score and a comprehensive exposition regarding an array of previously uncharted performance considerations with regard to the vocal realisation of the Irish language for operatic purposes