Wide Open Opera’s next season, opening in the National Opera House (Wexford) on 16 April, transferring to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on 20 April, features Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville, with a cast including Irish stars Tara Erraught as Rosina, Gavan Ring as Figaro and John Molloy as Don Basilio. Coming after Tristan and Isolde, Nixon in China, The Importance of Being Earnest and The Last Hotel, this move to more mainstream material (and its first Italian opera) represents a new change of direction for the company.

At the season’s launch – held, appropriately enough, in the atmospheric Waldorf Barbershop in central Dublin – artistic director Fergus Sheil was keen to emphasise that this is the company’s first in-house production: “this is the first time we’ve created a new production for the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre and, in what’s a new development for us, will also go to the National Opera House in Wexford”. The Orchestra of Wexford Festival Opera performs, with Sheil himself conducting, who will work alongside experienced theatre director Michael Barker-Caven. Introducing the production, Barker-Caven referred to the radical origins of the work: “we want to go back to the dynamic, earthy feeling of it… what we’ll do will be very playful, very fun, absolutely as Rossini saw the piece.”

Dublin-born mezzo soprano Tara Erraught – celebrated for her work with Bavarian State Opera, Glyndebourne Festival and Washington National Opera (where she made her American debut in Rossini’s other great comedy Cinderella in 2015), and crowned by the German press as the ‘New Queen of Belcanto’ – finally makes her Irish debut in this production, which promises to be one of 2016’s highlights.