Soloists and Orlando Chamber Orchestra at National Concert Hall, on 3rd August 2017

Thursday evening sees a full house gather to celebrate the 90th birthday of one of the most influential figures in Irish music, Veronica Dunne. Once a celebrated star, performing on such stages as La Scala and Covent Garden, from 1961 onwards Dunne (known better as ‘Ronnie’) began to combine teaching with her busy career as a soprano, before dedicating her life to teaching singing from the 1970s onwards. Over a career spanning fifty years, teaching at both the former Dublin College of Music (now the DIT Conservatory of Music & Drama) and the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dunne has taught nearly every major Irish singer, and many of her students have gone on to enjoy successful international careers in music. Still teaching young singers as she celebrates her 90th birthday, tonight some of Dunne’s most successful and best-loved students come together in a gala concert to honour her in what quickly becomes a showcase of Irish singing talent.

Headlined by three of Dunne’s most successful past pupils, mezzo soprano Tara Erraught and sopranos Miriam Murphy and Celine Byrne, recent students also feature, including Gemma Ní Bhriain, Sarah Shine, Youngwoo Kim, Jung Hoon Heo, and Niamh O Sullivan, highlighting how, even in recent years, Dunne has produced singers of an international calibre. As well, two of Dunne’s current students perform, with bass-baritone (and 2017 PlecPick) Robert McAllister and tenor James McCreanor showing how emerging young artists in Ireland continue to benefit and flourish from her instruction.

Standout moments of the concert include Kim’s rendition of Donizetti’s Una furtiva lagrima, Patrick Hyland’s and Byrne’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ duet, the ‘Rosenkavalier’ trio (sung by Erraught, Byrne, and Shine), and particularly Murphy’s and Kim’s final duet of Vicino a te from Giordano’s ‘Andrea Chenier’ which saw Dunne jump to her feet in applause during its final bars, shortly followed by a standing ovation from the entire audience.

Dunne herself takes to the stage to be presented with a bouquet and a birthday cake, as performers and audience join together to sing Verdi’s ‘Va pensiero’, in a light-hearted tribute. Invited to speak, Dunne expresses her hope for the future of opera in Ireland. Reflecting upon a lost culture of operas performed in Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre, she urges audience members to continue their support of the classical arts in Ireland. The gala ends with an encore by Kim, McCreanor, and Hyland, performing the three-tenor version of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma, bringing the evening’s festivities to a close in triumphant fashion.