Kildare star soprano Celine Byrne pulls out of Israeli event due to Palestine concerns

Kildare singer had been due to perform at an event to celebrate the anniversary of the foundation of Israel

Paul O'Meara

Reporter:

Paul O'Meara

Email:

paul@leinsterleader.ie

Kildare star soprano Celine Byrne pulls out of Israeli event due to Palestine concerns

Soprano Celine Byrne from Caragh

Kildare opera star Celine Byrne has pulled out of a major music event marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel.

The anniversary gala in Jerusalem, held on May 13, was one of the numerous events held to mark the foundation of the State.

Ms Byrne’s decision followed criticism of her visit to perform in Tel Aviv four months previously.

Meanwhile, the Caragh resident is due to perform opera for the first in the US later in the summer when she performs Puccini’s La Rondine in Minnesota (the American state which produced Bob Dylan) in August.

“I’m really looking forward to that; it will be my American debut,” she told the Leader.

The former St. Mary’s College Naas student has performed in the US before. These tours were to concert halls and music venues, performing in a different genre.

Though nothing’s been confirmed yet — it’s likely she will be performing at the Phoenix Park for the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland on August 25 and 26.

She won’t be returning to Israel, though. In February she generated a social media kerfuffle after performing in Israel earlier this year.

Celine recalled: “I went to Israel in January to perform in an Israeli Opera premiere in Tel Aviv having received a contract with the opera company there. I was aware of the Palestinian issue — at least to a certain extent — but I am a singer who must perform and this is my job.”

She was subjected to criticism and some abuse by a dedicated social media forum set up to question her decision.

“I genuinely didn’t see at the time that it would affect anyone; I’m a singer, not a politician. But I got a lot of bombardment and hassle.”

More recently she was invited to sing at an event marking the 70th anniversary of foundation of the State of Israel.

“Given that this celebrated the founding of Israel I felt it was much more politically sensitive because the people of Palestine lay claim to some of this land. I decided not to go. It is one thing to sing in an opera house but it’s another to mark the foundation of Israel when Palestinians might be sensitive to that. It is a difficult situation, while I may have my own views, I’m a singer first. Essentially though I took a stand because it’d be seen as a slap in the face to Palestinians. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t go back. I enjoyed my visit to Israel and to places like visits to Galilee, Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.”

She likened it to the debate surrounding Friday’s referendum. “For many people it’s a divisive issue.”

READ ALSO: Kildare Palestinian Solidarity Group stage protest in Newbridge

Before she goes to the US, Celine will perform at the Moat Theatre — a venue she visits regularly — with a show including well known pieces from operas, operettas, and musicals on Friday July 13.

Celine has performed in many musicals, notably at the Bord Gais Theatre when she did eight shows a week between December 8 and January 6 this year.

“I love performing in musicals. Musicals are tough work and you have to admire those who participate in and produce them. Opera is more physically demanding in terms of the voice but musicals demand a lot of stage activity and some are staged twice day. I admire people involved musicals. It’s really difficult to do two shows a day because when I’m performing opera I’m used to a break between performances. Basically with musicals you’ve no time to do anything only eat and prepare for the next show.”

She always looks forward to performing locally, not least because family members like dad John Joe and mother Maureen can attend. Looking ahead to 2019, the talent that is Celine Byrne will be heading abroad to Germany, Chile and France.