European Premiere of Donnacha Dennehy’s 'The Hunger'

European Premiere of Donnacha Dennehy’s 'The Hunger'
© Image: Courtesy of BAM

The European premiere performances of Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy’s The Hunger are presented August 19-24, 2019 by the Abbey Theater in Dublin, Ireland. Directed by Tom Creed, the performances feature soprano Katherine Manley and sean nós singer larla Ó Lionáird in the lead roles, alongside Crash Ensemble with Alan Pierson, conducting.  

The Hunger explores the Great Irish Famine of 1845-52, and derives its leading narrative from first-hand accounts recorded by the American humanitarian Asenath Nicholson. Commissioned by Alarm Will Sound with funding provided by Arts Council of Ireland, MAP Fund, New Music USA, the work has been performed as a staged "docu-cantata" in venues from BAM to the Kennedy Center.

Dennehy explains: The Famine was a topic I had wanted to address in my music for a long time. Only when I discovered Asenath Nicholson's Annals of the Famine in Ireland, published in 1851, was a route unlocked for me. Her astonishing first-hand accounts became the piece's main narrative thread. She made the arduous journey from the U.S. to Ireland, when countless others were going in the opposite direction, and traversed the entire country, often on foot, and often staying in the homes of the suffering, in order to chronicle the conditions of starving Irish people.

To counterpoint Nicholson's perspective, I invented an elderly Irish character, written for Iarla Ó Lionáird. The sense of how incapable bureaucracy is at dealing with a quickly transforming crisis, and how that bureaucracy can be used as a screen for being unfeeling, is implied by the narrative that Asenath tells of the old man's dealings with the hunger relief station, and the way the music surges and fades, embodying the old man's Sisyphean task.

Immediately following the European premiere performances of the staged version, Nonesuch Records releases Dennehy’s The Hunger on August 23rd in a new concert version created for the recording and featuring Alarm Will Sound, led by Alan Pierson, with soprano Katherine Manley, and Iarla Ó Lionáird in the lead roles. 

In support of the CD release, Alarm Will Sound presents a mini-tour of the concert version in September at venues in Princeton, New York City, and Boston:

September 17: Princeton Sound Kitchen, Princeton, NJ 
September 19: Merkin Concert Hall, New York, NY (as part of Ecstatic Music's tenth anniversary season)
September 20: Jordan Hall, Boston, MA (in partnership with Oxfam America)

Peruse the scores online: staged and concert versions

The Hunger "bears hearing and rehearing," said the Washington Post. "It is powerful, and it makes a statement." The Hunger is available to pre-order from iTunes and the Nonesuch Store, where the album track Black Potatoes may be downloaded instantly.

Alarm Will Sound - Donnacha Dennehy's The Hunger: Black Potatoes (Official Audio)

Dennehy's next opera commission will complete the trilogy of works with librettist/director Enda Walsh. The first in the trilogy The Last Hotel was released on Cantaloupe Records in March 2019 and receives its German premiere on May 15, 2020, at Theater Freiburg.

A searingly powerful new chamber opera…The instrumental score is what crept deepest under my skin: ‘The Last Hotel’ unleashes a thrilling musical energy. Dennehy's 12-piece ensemble includes accordion, electric guitar and heavy percussion, and thrums with a savage, unstoppable groove, shouting the unspeakable, seething with emotions that characters are too numb to express. It's propulsive, gritty and rich. 
— Kate Molleson, The Guardian (Four Stars)

Listen to The Last Hotel on Spotify.

For more information please contact Peggy Monastra.

Image: Courtesy of BAM


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