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Premiere of opera based on Oscar Wilde's 'Being Earnest' highlights Irish arts festival's L.A. offerings (updated)

February 23, 2011 |  6:00 pm

ThomasAdesKenHively Without even trying, the Irish have had a huge impact on American arts and culture over the past 150-plus years.

Now, with the roaring “Irish Tiger” economy of the early 2000s defanged by a collapsed real estate bubble, they're trying.

One prominent attempt is “Imagine Ireland: a Year of Irish Arts in America,” a festival sponsored by the Irish government whose online brochure states plainly that it “has invested in this initiative because arts and culture are vital to Ireland’s recovery.” It's hoped that boosting Ireland's cultural profile in America will pay off in increased tourism, while putting dollars in the pockets of Irish citizens -- namely the artists coming our way.

“Imagine Ireland” involves events across the United States, and the multi-venue L.A. component, announced Wednesday, calls for an array of performances, exhibitions, screenings and literary happenings from March to November -- not counting the Cinemagic Los Angeles Film Festival for Young People, a touring program out of Belfast that opened Monday and runs through Saturday at various L.A. schools and other venues.

Among the events is the Los Angeles Philharmonic's premiere of Irish composer Gerald Barry’s new opera, "The Importance of Being Earnest,” based on Oscar Wilde's comedy and co-commissioned by the Phil, London’s Barbican Centre and the Birmingham (England) Contemporary Music Group.

"The Importance of Being Earnest" will be performed as a concert (no costumes, sets or staging) April 7-8 at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Bass Stephen Richardson will sing the role of the imperious Lady Bracknell, joining a stage tradition of males in that part; also featured are tenor Gordon Gietz as John Worthing and soprano Hila Plitmann as the ingenue, Cecily Cardew.

Here are the other "Imagine Ireland" events in L.A.:


Druid Theatre's production of Martin McDonagh's "The Cripple of Inishmaan," April 5-May 1, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Culver City.

"As you are now so once were we," a production from Dublin's The Company that aims, a la James Joyce's "Ulysses," to find larger meanings in everyday routines -- in this case the activities of thespians preparing to put on a play. June 13-19, Los Angeles Theatre Center.


This is Ireland: A St. Patrick's Day Celebration in music, film and poetry, with Roma Downey, Pierce Brosnan, conductor Eimear Noone and orchestra and the Hollywood Choir. March 17, Royce Hall, UCLA.

Julie Feeney, a pop-classical singer-songwriter and orchestrator, March 28 at Bardot Hollywood nightclub and April 2 at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood.

Singers Susan McKeown and Lorin Sklamberg in "Saints and Tzadiks," a collaborative concert of Irish and Yiddish songs, April 27 at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Visual Art

"Wake Amusements," a multi-artist exhibition of works in book form, inspired by "jovial funerary practices of Irish folk tradition." March 1-30, Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design.

"Froebel Eames Studio," an installation by Eamon O'Kane that's part of a larger group exhibition, "Broodwork: It's About Time," April 30-June 11, Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design.

"Jesse Jones: The Struggle Against Ourselves," the first U.S. solo exhibition by a Dublin artist, including a new, commissioned work developed with CalArts students during her residency there. July 1-Aug. 28, Gallery at REDCAT.

"Invite or Reject," a group exhibition from MART, an Irish new media, installation and performance organization. Aug. 14-24, C4 Contemporary Art Gallery.

Nevan Lahart, solo exhibition of painting, performance, video and sculpture. Sept. 17-Oct. 15 at 18th Street Art Center, Santa Monica, and Oct. 15-Nov. 12 at Steve Turner Contemporary.


2011 North American James Joyce Conference, with readings and conversations by authors and poets including Nicholson Baker, Paul Muldoon and Dana Gioia. June 12-16, Huntington Library, San Marino.

Readings and conversations with Irish writers in the Discover the World Pavilion at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. April 30-May 1, USC.


Los Angeles Irish Film Festival. Sept. 29-Oct. 2, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences' Linwood Dunn Theater, Hollywood and American Cinematheque's Aero Theater, Santa Monica.

(For the record: A previous version of this post incorrectly said that "The Importance of Being Earnest" had not been previously announced. Performances of the piece were noted in the L.A. Phil's announcement last year of its 2010-11 season.)


JamesJoyceAP  Los Angeles Philharmonic announces 2010-11 season: 12 weeks of Dudamel

 Druid Theatre: A countryman's call

The enigma of South London

'Inishmaan' on closer inspection

Theatergoers come to the defense of 'Cripple of Inishmaan'

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Thomas Ades conducting. Credit: Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times