Celine’s Christmas homecoming

World-renowned Caragh soprano Celine Byrne will finish off a successful year with two Christmas concerts at the Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge.

World-renowned Caragh soprano Celine Byrne will finish off a successful year with two Christmas concerts at the Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge.

It has been a whirlwind of a year for the classical singer.

She made her debut at prestigious London venue Covent Garden in February, in true stage fairytale fashion covering at last minute when an ill lead singer pulled out.

She followed this with a short run as Mimi in Puccini’s La Boheme last May, again covering for the original lead who was unable to perform.

In June, Celine performed to a worldwide audience of 150 million at the closing mass of the Eucharistic Congress, held in Dublin.

She has just returned from her debut concert in the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, having sung last night (Monday) in a Christmas concert with the inimitable Jose Carreras.

“I have sung with him many times, this is about the twentieth,” Celine told the Leader before her departure on Saturday.

“I love to sing Christmas numbers with him, it’s wonderful.”

She will follow that adventure with two dates in Germany later this week and a concert at the Nenagh Arts Centre this Saturday night.

She will also sing with the Three Sopranos in a sold-out concert at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on Wednesday next, December 19.

Her last engagement before Christmas will be at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, on Sunday, December 23, when she features in Handel’s Messiah.

Her home-county fans, however, will have a chance to catch Celine at the Riverbank. The date on Friday, December 21, has sold out, and an extra show on Saturday, December 21, has been scheduled.

Those attending the show can expect a mixture of some familiar classical arias, well-known songs and much-loved festive numbers.

“What I am trying to do is make classical music more accessible,” said Celine, reflecting on the contrast between the way the genre is perceived at home in Ireland and in other European countries.

“It’s wonderful when I get to sing abroad in big halls with huge capacities, but I like to come back and sing in my own country.

“The arts are very much to the fore in other countries,” she said, adding that in Ireland there is a perception that classical music is just for one niche sector of the community.

“Even for me, there are some operas and pieces of classical music that are a little bit heavy, but there are some wonderful pieces out there as well.”

The singer, who displayed her Lilywhite credentials when she sung the traditional ‘Curragh of Kildare’ before the start of the Irish Derby at the Curragh Racecourse last summer, will enjoy a short break with her family before resuming her jetsetting singing career.

She will start the year with some New Year’s concerts in Italy in early January, and will also return to Covent Garden in November, when she will take a role in Parsifal.

But for the moment, she is looking forward to rounding off a successful 12 months by singing some of her avourite numbers in her home county.

“I love the Christmas concert, I really do. It’s just wonderful and everyone loves to hear the Viennese music and the Christmas songs,” she said.

Tickets for the Riverbank can be booked at www.riverbank.ie or by calling 045 448330. Tickets for the Nenagh Arts Centre concert are available at 067 34400.

- Laura Coates