Welcome to Wales: a St David’s Day primer to the best of Welsh writing

Heledd was the sister of Cynddylan, Prince of Powys, and the work mourns the death of her family at English hands: The hall of Cynddylan is dark tonight Without fire, without a bed. 5. ADVERTISEMENT 3. It is his matchless talent as an artist and the intuitive detachment that comes with that, that allows Thomas to approach subject matter that others might make mawkish and imbue it with profundity instead. As Francesca Rhydderch has written of Tywyll Heno: “At the heart of the book is a bottomless pit of angst which transcends the borders of an individual society or distinct culture, an existentialist fear that beneath all this there is simply – nothing.” 10. Tywyll Heno (Dark Tonight) by Kate Roberts (translated by JP Clancy) (Temple University Press) This short, oppressive masterpiece by Roberts takes its title from the ninth-century Welsh saga poem Canu Heledd (Song of Heledd). Mazelis writes about the repressed desires and casual cruelties of suburban life with an acute sensitivity that lends these stories an almost dreamlike, even Gothic quality. Keats’ line “Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty” may trip off most tongues with a touch of jaded flippancy but it has never felt more pertinent than when wielded by this intense, often revelatory writer. But, beyond a bridge over the frozen rivers he took a flying leap and, paws barely touching the hardened snow and scut whisking, escaped out of sight.” ADVERTISEMENT Links Cynan Jones reinterprets Caradoc Evans Rachel Trezise re-interprets Rhys Davies The greatest Welsh novel John Lavin is fiction editor of Wales Arts Review, editor of the Lonely Crowd and co-founder of the Lampeter Review @jtmlavin Alongside new books from Morris (which I discuss in more detail here), Tessa Hadley, Robert Minhinnick, Kate Hamer and Gary Raymond to name but a few, it felt like the Welsh literary scene had turned an important corner. While contemporary Welsh fiction is unquestionably internationalist in terms of influence, there can be little doubt that Evans and Thomas, in particular, continue to represent a profound source of inspiration for Welsh writers, whether it be Niall Griffiths, Rachel Trezise or the exciting new writer, Thomas Morris. Jones demands that his readers bear witness to the events that he so starkly portrays and develops an almost audible tension between writer and reader that is quite remarkable. 7. However, Trezise is an internationalist at heart and these stories also take in …

Fresh opportunities open up for Opera in Ireland

It has no experience in producing at a Dublin venue, and it would also run the risk of diluting its brand by presenting core repertoire in the capital. There’s to be an emphasis on “Irish/Irish-based opera artists and other professionals”, and on growing “large and diverse Irish audiences for opera”. Given that Ireland has a very limited number of opera producers, it seems inevitable that only a small number of players will be in a position to apply. The really big news is that the council has issued a call for proposals for “main-scale” opera provision from 2018. Lyric Opera, however, has only had limited success in securing Arts Council funding over the years, most recently for Dvorak’s Rusalka at the Gaiety in 2013. But his engagement with opera does not extend to having an actual track record of producing opera in an opera house. The process will be different to regular Arts Council applications. In other words, in 2010 those three companies received more than the 2018 total, which will also have to cover other production and commission awards as well as bursaries and travel grants. It’s currently in the process of restoring the festival to a full, 18-night run. And the total 2018 opera budget of €4.85 million is actually lower in real terms than the €3.65 million allocated to Opera Ireland, Opera Theatre Company and Wexford Festival opera in that same year. With three seasons’ worth of productions to account for in the applications, not to mention multiple applicants, there’s no doubt that Irish opera singers’ phones will be buzzing with offers in the coming weeks. mdervan@irishtimes.com The final decision on the panel’s recommendations will be made by the council on May 24th. Happily, the council’s latest move on opera funding is in a positive negative direction. Wexford Festival Opera, which failed in its application for a spring season of popular opera for 2017, faces numerous dilemmas if it wishes to put its hat in the ring. Some of the smaller companies that have won production awards in recent years may well decide to scale up. And it’s decided to do this by creating a differently configured successor to OI. Fergus Sheil’s Wide Open Opera, the only Irish opera company to have worked at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, is sure to apply, and it’s been mooted that WOO and Opera Theatre Company (of which Sheil is …

Irish playwright Marina Carr wins $165,000 literary prize

Literary festival The prizes are among the world’s most substantial. “Lady luck is shining on me today. The author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed plays, Carr was born in Dublin in 1964 to the playwright Hugh Carr and Irish language poet Maura Eibhlín Breathneach and grew up in Co Offaly. The awards will be conferred in September at an international literary festival at Yale University, whose keynote speaker will be Karl Ove Knausgård. Tarell Alvin McCraney, who won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay for Moonlight, won the inaugural prize in 2013. Carr, whose adaptation of Anna Karenina premiered to great acclaim at the Abbey Theatre in December, is a lecturer in Dublin City University’s School of English. Fellow Irish playwright Abbie Spallen became the first Irish winner of the award last year. Irish playwright Marina Carr has won one of the world’s must lucrative literary honours, the Windham-Campbell Prize, worth $165,000 (€155,000). My thanks and appreciation to those involved in selecting my work,” Carr said. The Windham-Campbell prizes, administered by the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University, were established in 2013 with a gift from the late Donald Windham in memory of his partner of 40 years, Sandy M Campbell. She is working on new plays for the Abbey and the Tricycle Theatre in London, the latter about Clytemnestra in the aftermath of the Trojan war. They recognise exceptional writers of fiction, non-fiction and drama who write in English. Like its successors Portia Coughlin (1996) and By the Bog of Cats (1998), which won the Irish Times/EST award for best new play, The Mai does not so much adapt as reinvent its source material, finding an ancient darkness in the hills and valleys of contemporary rural Ireland. ADVERTISEMENT This year’s other recipients are André Alexis and Erna Brodber (fiction); Maya Jasanoff and Ashleigh Young (non-fiction); Ali Cobby Eckermann and Carolyn Forché (poetry) and Ike Holter (drama). The Man Booker Prize is worth £50,000 and the International Dublin Literary Award €100,000. She made her name with The Mai (1994), the first in a trilogy of plays set in the midlands and inspired by the works of Euripides and Sophocles.

Patrick O’Laoghaire: the fine line between hurling and music

“I have this curiosity about some singers who sound really young and totally naive and innocent, and they also sound like they’re 100,” he says. But you just do it, and you think, Well, that’s the work and this is the way it’s gonna go. I’ll swim as fast as I can until about 2 metres from the end, and then I’ll just stop and let the momentum carry me. I remember going straight from hurling training once to a jewellery-making class, and trying to cover it up: ‘Oh, I’ve to go to physio’. And with my songs, you want them to live a certain way, you want to visit places with them – all of the usual stuff, I guess. “To keep you going in a forward direction, you have a kind of humble hope that it’ll work out. You can’t really plan anything.” O’Laoghaire goes silent for a moment, trawling his brain for another tried and trusted sporting analogy. “I like that ‘somewhere in-between’ place. “I know that’s a mad thing to say,” he says, “but playing music and playing hurling, you get the same feeling. The voice belies his 29 years and particularly suits his penchant for making music that is often the sonic equivalent of slow-cooking. “It felt a bit like it was time to say okay, maybe we’ll do these ones now. There’s a lot of ways to keep motivated, and there’s a lot of stuff out of your control. So how does he measure success? Like, I’d love to perform the songs with an orchestra.” He sighs, tugging his beard. “I go swimming a bit. He spent four or five years tinkering with the tunes before the impetus to record them professionally was sparked by a meeting with Scottish producer Paul Savage, who had worked with the likes of King Creosote, Mogwai and Franz Ferdinand. It proves O’Laoghaire is not averse to risks, although that doesn’t mean that there is a deficit of ideas or new material in his canon. But then, but then, when you’re playing you’ve no time to overthink it; it’s instinctual. And if it happens, it happens. “I’m curious about when you’re playing an instrument, you can see it – whereas you can’t see your voice. He laughs now at the stuff he was listening to as a child; he was the only kid in his class who was into …