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A poster image for Eithne

Eithne, ceoldráma

In 2017, Dublin’s Opera Theatre Company revived the first Irish-language opera, Robert O’Dwyer’s (1862 – 1949) Eithne, for its first performance in over a century. Although Eithne was well-received by contemporary critics for its contribution to the Gaelic revival movement and as an attempt to establish a national opera tradition, the opera has been mysteriously forgotten for over a century. 

Synopsis as printed in Gaelic League programme (1910), image courtesy of National Library of Ireland
Eithne's original performance ran from 2 August 1909 through 5 August 1909 at Dublin's Rotunda Round Room (image c. 1890-1910), image courtesy of National Library of Ireland

“Despite a small, but healthy, appetite for opera in Ireland, a large resource of fascinating folklore and song, and prolific writers, Ireland had failed to establish an operatic tradition that would fill the Irish with pride and delight foreign audiences.”

Robert O'Dwyer in his study (c. 1910-1920), image courtesy of Ciaran O'Dwyer
Letter from Thomas O'Kelly to Robert O'Dwyer, discussing changes for the opera's second performance in May 1910 at the Gaiety Theatre. This would be the final performance for a over century. Courtesy of National Library of Ireland


25 II 1910

A chara,

Eithne travelled back by registered post last evening.
I couldn’t possibly have it ready sooner, and it is always good to give a printer as little excuse for errors as possible.
It will be pretty difficult to have it ready in the time. You will see that I haven’t altered very much. On pp. 74 & 75 I have restored the words I sent in altered to suit the music.
I have thought this better than to allow Ceart to begin his solo with the impersonal speech already used by the chorus.
Look at my query on division of syllables of Coinagileon top of page 83.
On page 127 you have omitted last stanza of my wish and as it says to the words I am inclined to think it must have been thro’ inadvertence. If so please put it in (i.e. “Brave Diarmuid etc. )
The cast is fine as far as I know the artists. I’m glad Miss Duffy + Reynolds are retained. I hope they’ll do as well as before.
Sincerely yours,
Thos O’Kelly

Pages from Act I of the original manuscript, courtesy of National Library of Ireland

Recorded by RTÉ Lyric FM