Ask anyone to name a few Mozart operas and they will, most likely, respond correctly with The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute. There are of course several others not least Idomeneo, first produced in Munich on January 28, 1781. It had considerable success then and remains a marvellous, if overshadowed, piece.
As it happens, Idomeneo is the only Mozart opera staged at this year’s prestigious Salzburg Festival where its seven performances are in the unique setting of the Felsenreitschule (Rocky Riding School) dating back to the 17th Century and hewn out of the forbidding Mönschberg.
Conducted by Greek-Russian maestro Teodor Currentzis with the stunning Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, the performance I attend is musically magnificent with US tenor Russell Thomas leading its international cast. But more interesting from an Irish point of view is the casting of the important role of Idamante. It is sung and acted with particular distinction by Paula Murrihy. Following her achievement in last year’s Magic Flute, Paula was immediately reengaged by the Festival for the more demanding part of Idamante, Idomeneo’s son!
Paula Murrihy hails from Tralee, where her parents still reside and where she attended the Presentation Sisters’ schools. She also studied at the Kerry School of Music under the guidance of the eminent Sharon Reidy.
While Paula’s early taste lay in traditional music – a family passion – she came under the influence of local priest Fr Pat Ahern in Siamsa Tire who, recognising her potential, advised her to take matters a step further. Paula came to the DIT Conservatory with Anne-Marie O’Sullivan directing her overall tuition and Edith Forrest leading her through oratorio.
Following her BMus degree Paula Murrihy moved to the New England Conservatory in Boston and this led to her participation in apprenticeships in San Francisco, St Louis and Santa Fe and brought her life changing experiences.
Back in Europe, Paula joined the Frankfurt Opera ensemble in 2009, which for the moment remains her base. There she embraced the diversity of the Company’s extensive repertoire stretching from the baroque to the contemporary. Among many other roles, Paul Murrihy had a tremendous success in her debut as Bizet’s Carmen – a part she repeats for Irish National Opera in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre next March.
Paula Murrihy’s commitment to Frankfurt did not exclude her from working elsewhere with appearances at the Met in New York, Boston, Santa Fe and Los Angeles. Her Covent Garden and English National Opera debuts came in Verdi’s Don Carlo and Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini respectively. More recently she appeared in Britten’s Gloriana at the Teatro Real in Madrid.
Immediately after her Salzburg run she joins Teodor Currentzis’ musicAeterna group for Mozart’s three great da Ponte operas in Bremen, St Petersburg, Vienna and Lucerne. She will return to Frankfurt for the title role in Fauré’s Pénélope and fulfil a number of concert engagements in North America.
Delightful to meet, the vivacious and versatile Paula Murrihy is married to Donegal tenor Eamon Bonner whom she met in DIT. They have two daughters, Étaín (6) and Fódhlu (six months).