OPERA PLACES Brett Polegato takes us to Dublin, Ireland

by | May 16, 2024 | Artist of the Week, Featured, News

Canadian-Italian baritone Brett Polegato takes us to Dublin, Ireland where he’s in rehearsals for Irish National Opera‘s upcoming production of Verdi‘s La Traviata in the role of Germont père, running May 17 -31 (info and tickets here).

Brett is a sought after baritone who has graced the world’s most famous operatic stages including La Scala, l’Opéra National de Paris, the Glyndebourne Festival, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, the Teatro Real, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam and Carnegie Hall. Recent performances include Capulet in Roméo et Juliette with MusikTheater an der Wien, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with Bregenzer Festspiele, Scarpia in Tosca with Grange Park Opera, Steve Jobs in The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs with Calgary Opera, and de Brétigny in Manon with the Metropolitan Opera.

Lucky for us, Brett found a few moments in between rehearsals to sit down with us to talk about his experience in Dublin, including what the opera house is like, where his favourite cafes and restaurants are located, and how he has found the luck of the Irish by talking to the local Dubliners. Read on to find out more.

City where you’re working?
Dublin (and eventually Wexford & Cork)

How long are you working on contract?
I’m here for 7 weeks. We are performing in Wexford, Dublin and Cork. Performances are May 17 (Wexford), May 21 & 23 & 25 (Dublin), and May 29 & 31 (Cork).

What’s the opera house like?
This is my sixth time in Ireland and I am fortunate to have sung in all three opera houses. I visited Wexford in 2018, when we did the European premiere of “Dinner At Eight” (Bolcom). Wexford is home to the National Opera House, a 771 seat theatre built in 2008. In Dublin, we are performing at the Gaiety Theatre. This jewel box of a theatre was built in 1871 and seats 2,000 people. La Traviata marks my return to the Gaiety after having sung the title role in Guillaume Tell there in 2022. I first sang at the Cork Opera House in 2019, when our production of Madama Butterfly with INO toured there. The opera house is a little gem of a theatre, seating only 1,000 people.

Photographed by Dara Munnis. Gaiety Theater

Where is the most peaceful place in the city?
When I want to go and read or just be by myself I often spend time at St. Stephen’s Green or on the grounds of Trinity College Dublin. Although both are located in the heart of the city, they do afford a respite from the bustling nearby streets, especially Grafton Street (the pedestrian shopping area).

Best coffee or tea?
The Irish love their coffee and you can find many wonderful coffee shops. My coffee place of choice is Shoe Lane Coffee (7 Tara Street), which also happens to be just around the corner from my apartment.

Coolest bar or restaurant you’ve been to?
I must admit that I’m not much of a foodie when I’m alone – I tend to cook for myself – but during Guillaume Tell, the lot of us went to Brasserie Sixty6 (South Great George’s Street) and had a wonderful time. And although not a bar or restaurant, I do spend an inordinate amount of time at the Celtic Whiskey Shop (Dawson St) and Sheridans Cheesemongers (Anne St S). Ireland is a food and drink lover’s paradise!

An activity you have done that is unique to the area?
Dublin is a theatre-lover’s Mecca, so every time I’m here, I make sure to take in as many plays as I can at the Abbey Theatre. Founded in 1904 (by W.B. Yeats!), it was the first state-subsidised theatre in the English speaking world. Many of the great Irish plays had their premieres here.

Is there something unexpected that happens locally that you discovered?
I “unexpectedly” found myself in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day in 2019 when I was here singing Sharpless in Madama Butterfly. I can honestly say you have not truly celebrated St. Patrick’s Day until you’ve celebrated it with the Irish!

How did you find your accommodation?
I found my apartment through AirBnB. I paid twice as much here for the same number of days as I did in the heart of Vienna just two months ago. Dublin has become a very expensive city but – my, oh my! – it is worth the expense. I feel very much at home here, thanks to the hospitality and humour of the Irish.

What’s the most important thing you think of when it comes to finding accommodation as a singer?
I’m not incredibly fussy but I do need a good mattress (I’m old), decent WiFI, laundry facilities (no one has time after age 30 to sit in a laundromat while on the road!) and a decent kitchen! As I have mentioned, I don’t often go out to eat when I’m alone, so having a kitchen where I can cook my own meals is vital. Oh, and a reading lamp! I cannot tell you the number of hotels and rental accommodations that aren’t geared towards us avid readers!!!

Have you had a chance to explore some galleries or museums?
So far, I have only been to the Trinity College Dublin Library where I also saw the Book of Kells. I plan to do a lot more exploring.

Is there anything you recommend beyond what we’ve asked here?
I make it a point of reading literature (fiction, usually) from the city / country I’m in at the time. Even if you aren’t a reader, I highly recommend you read James Joyce’s “Dubliners” if you are planning a visit to Dublin. It will set the scene for you.

Mulligan’s Pub (mentioned briefly in a James Joyce short story) around the corner from my apartment.

Once here, talk to people. Dubliners (and the Irish in general) are some of the friendliest people in the world. They will take time out of their busy day to chat with you, and are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to getting to know the country and its people. There is so much I have discovered about the city (the site of the first “Messiah” performance, for example), that I might otherwise have missed had I not stopped to chat with the local people. And even on the gloomiest of days, the Irish will make you laugh!!


© Brett Polegato
Gaiety Theatre (in 2022)


©Brett Polegato
River Liffey in Dublin
© Irish National Opera
Poster for William Tell (2022)

La Traviata
Irish National Opera

May 17 – 31

CONDUCTOR: Killian Farrell/Fergus Sheil
DIRECTOR: Olivia Fuchs

CHOREOGRAPHER: Jessica Kennedy

VIOLETTA: Amanda Woodbury/Máire Flavin
ALFREDO: Mario Chang/Yongzhao Yu
GERMONT: Brett Polegato/Anthony Clark Evans

FLORA: Aebh Kelly
ANNINA: Madeline Judge
GASTONE: Patrick Hyland
BARONE DOUPHOL: Brendan Collins

GIUSEPPE: Ben Escorcio
FLORA’S SERVANT: Matthew Mannion


Violetta, a high-spirited, popular courtesan. Alfredo, her devoted but naive lover. The rural bliss they choose is shattered by fear of scandal. When their love reasserts itself, she is already on her deathbed. Opera’s most moving reunion.

Verdi’s La traviata is based on the semi-autobiographical play, La Dame aux camélias (The Lady of the Camellias), by Alexandre Dumas fils. The subject is Dumas’s relationship with Marie Duplessis, someone that composer Franz Liszt once described as the only woman he had ever loved. Verdi’s acute and heart-rending response to a woman who died of TB at the age of 23 has immortalised not just her tragedy, but also her irrepressible character and appeal.

Running time 3 hours with interval.

Sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Join the conversation online with #INOTraviata

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