The largest and most ambitious Galway International Arts Festival to date opened this week, with more than 200 events running across this week and next, in what is one of Ireland's flagship cultural events.
The 2017 festival is also significant as it marks the event's 40th anniversary. This year's GIAF features new opera and theatre, including four world premieres; concerts at the Absolut Big Top; First Thought Talks; and visual art and street spectacle, from artists and companies from Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Iceland, UK, USA, Sierra Leone, South Korea, South Africa, Syria, The Netherlands, and Ireland. Attendance is expected to break the 200,000 barrier again this year and to at least match last year’s €23.5 million economic impact.
Recently named one of the top five European Summer festivals in The Guardian, the festival officially opened on Monday at the Black Box Theatre, with the world premiere production of Woyzeck in Winter, from Landmark Productions and the Galway International Arts Festival. Directed by Conall Morrison, this fusion of Büchner's Woyzeck and Schubert's Die Winterreise, stars Patrick O'Kane, Camille O'Sullivan, Rosaleen Linehan, and Barry McGovern.
Among the other shows premiering on Monday were Bathroom, the fourth in the series of ROOMS installations. Written and directed by Enda Walsh, it is produced by GIAF, and designed by festival artistic director Paul Fahy. Irish actor Paul Reid is the voice of the character in Bathroom, which can be seen in the Bank of Ireland Theatre, NUI Galway until July 30.
Staying with theatre, GIAF 17 includes the world premiere of The Second Violinist, a new opera by Donnacha Dennehy and Enda Walsh, and starring Aaron Monaghan; Kneehigh and director Emma Rice’s production of Tristan & Yseult; new theatre productions from Druid (Crestfall ), the Abbey (Two Pints ) and London’s Old Vic (Cover My Tracks by David Greig and singer-songwriter Charlie Fink ).
Among the other highlights of the festival will be Beach Boys’ legend Brian Wilson at the Absolut Big Top; JFDR, the latest project from Icelandic vocalist, songwriter, and musician, Jófríður Ákadóttir; First Thought Talks’ series, including a talk with Syrian architect and author Marwa al-Sabouni; and a street art programme featuring Olivier Grossetête’s The People Build.
The Festival Gallery returns to the former Connacht Print Works, Market Street, which this year features a 19 figure installation, Dark Night Of The Soul, by Brazilian artist Ana Maria Pacheco, and Inscriptions, an exhibition of paintings by Irish artist Ailbhe Ní Bhriain. The festival also premieres a major new commission Solar Pavilion Flag by Irish artist John Gerrard.
Other exhibitions to look out for include After The Raft Of The Medusa from UK/Australian artist John Beard; Nicola Gunwhy’s Can We Ever Really See Each Other?; Memory Has A Pulse by Seán Cotter, Gary Robinson, and Thomas Brezing at 126; and the group exhibitions Impressions’ Open Biennale and Golden Record, both at Galway Arts Centre.
"For its four decades the Galway International Arts Festival has reminded us that the arts are a crucial vehicle for citizen participation and that good artistic work is an essential part of being human," said Uachtarán na hÉireann, Michael D Higgins. "The festival has enabled the showcasing and appreciation of such artistic work, in the process broadening and deepening Ireland's international reputation as a country and a people defined by its artistic work and enriched by its inventive, creative and original people."
Tickets are now on sale through www.giaf.ie #GIAF17