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Alarm Will Sound Ensemble

IRELAND 100: Alarm Will Sound: The Hunger

Wednesday, June 1, 2016 7:00 PM

IRELAND 100: Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts & Culture

The Hunger is an opera composed by Ireland's famed composer Donnacha Dennehy, performed by the New York–based ensemble Alarm Will Sound, and featuring sean nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird and soprano Katherine Manley.

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About

IRELAND 100: Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts & Culture
Alarm Will Sound
The Hunger (East Coast Premiere)
Composed by Donnacha Dennehy

 
"One of the most vital and original ensembles on the American music scene"--The New York Times

The Hunger is a new opera composed by Ireland's famed composer Donnacha Dennehy, performed by the New York-based ensemble Alarm Will Sound, and featuring sean nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird and soprano Katherine Manley. Alarm Will Sound is a 20-member ensemble dedicated to the creation, performance, and recording of today's music.
 
The Hunger uses historical material and contemporary documentary material to give a unique perspective on the Great Famine as well as the ongoing issues concerning famine in the present day. The principal text is Asenath Nicholson's Annals of the Famine in Ireland that recounts in vivid detail the unfolding famine she directly experienced. 
 
June1: Free Explore the Arts post-performance discussion.

Performed in English and Gaelic. 

Duration: 75 minutes (no intermission)
 
Born in Dublin in 1970, Donnacha Dennehy has received commissions from Dawn Upshaw, the Kronos Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Bang On A Can All-Stars, Lucilin, Contact (Toronto), Electra, the Fidelio Trio, Icebreaker, Joanna MacGregor, Orkest de Ereprijs, Orkest de Volharding, Percussion Group of the Hague, RTE National Symphony Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra (BBC Radio 3), Smith Quartet, and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players among others. Returning to Ireland after studies abroad at the University of Illinois (USA), Ircam (France) and the Netherlands, Dennehy founded the Crash Ensemble, Dublin's now renowned new music group, in 1997. Previously a tenured lecturer at Trinity College Dublin, Donnacha was appointed a Global Scholar at Princeton University in the Autumn of 2012. He was also appointed composer-in-residence for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in Texas (2013-14). In 2014 Donnacha joined the music faculty at Princeton University.

More about the opera:

We live in a world where people starve despite abundant resources.

The Hunger is an emotional new work that weaves together a first-person narrative account of The Great Famine of Ireland, 19th century Irish songs, and video interviews with contemporary economists, including Paul Krugman and Noam Chomsky, who connect The Great Famine to today's world. At least a million people died, and another million emigrated, mainly to the United States, Canada, and the UK, during this period of suffering and major upheaval. The Hunger uses historical texts and recordings as well as contemporary documentary material to give a unique perspective on The Great Famine as well as the ongoing issues concerning emigration, resource allocation, and starvation in the present day.

The work takes as a starting point text from Asenath Nicholson's Annals of the Famine in Ireland, which recounts the unfolding famine she directly experienced. Asenath traveled to Ireland from America to "personally investigate the condition of the Irish poor." Unfortunately, few first-hand accounts from the Irish through The Great Famine exist; without nourishment the Irish lacked the energy to do little other than survive. Dennehy gives voice to the Irish through the use of old recordings set with contemporary accompaniment and new songs in the traditional Irish sean nós style sung live. At the heart of The Hunger are personal, contemporaneous stories that open a new dimension on the tragedy.

The opera also addresses the complex issues of governance and economic policy by complementing Nicholson's personal, historical voice with video interviews with contemporary economists and political philosophers. One of the terrible ironies of The Great Famine is that while many were dying of starvation or associated diseases, food continued to be exported from large estate-farms. This is due to an influential contingent of the British government in London not wanting to interfere with the workings of the market, at least in Ireland. These contemporary thinkers look at the economic and political ramifications of The Great Famine in a larger historical context, connecting it to an ongoing debate on governments' responsibilities to markets and people. Unfortunately, The Great Famine is a focus for this topic, where these ideological battles resulted in catastrophic results. The opera is therefore not merely historical, but addresses current socioeconomic problems laid bare in the recent global economic crisis.

Through powerful music, compelling personal stories from the Irish Famine, and insights from today's great economists, The Hunger connects a tragedy from the past with one of the great debates of our time.

Watch and Listen

IRELAND 100 Festival Trailer