I WONDER if the Soviet KGB know that one of their distinguished citizens, Sergei Leiferkus, is about to become a monk in the Abbey of Cluny, taking the name of Boniface, and the humble post of cook, and that he is destined to see visions of Our Lady nightly on October 24, 27, 30 and November 2?
The fact is that Sergei is the leading baritone in this year's Wexford Opera Festival's production of `Le Jongleur de Notre Dame', by Jules Massenet, and we reproduce here the poster of the first Paris production of the opera in 1904.
The lead part of Jean, the juggler, who does homage to Our Lady in the only way he knows, juggling and dancing, is played by Irish tenor Patrick Power. The Prior of Cluny is from Rumania, bass singer Teddor Ciurdea, the Musician Monk is British, baritone John Cashmore, and Sculptor Monk and Crier-Monk are respectively Irish baritone Peter McBrien and Irish tenor Brendan Cavanagh.
The two angels are from Ireland and Scotland, the conductor is French, the producer Polish, and the designer South African.
Act one will have plenty of talented local Wexford ladies in the crowd scenes, and I presume a Wexford girl will take the part of the beautiful statue of Our Lady which comes to life and blesses Jean in the final vision.
The other two operas being performed this year are "The Kiss" by Smetana, and "Le Astuzue Femminili" by Cimarosa.
Dr Tom Walsh, and the late Eugene McCarthy of White's Hotel, were the founding fathers of this now internationally famousWexford Opera Festival.
Jim Golden, the chairman tells me that new financial support from sponsors such as the Bank of Ireland and Austin Rover have helped to keep the show on the road this year.
White's Hotel, Wexford, one of the best run family hotels in Ireland. and still with the McCarthy family, is always the glittering centre of the stars and leading personalities of the Festival, and the scene of many of the splendid fringe musical programmes.
I have always thought that White's Hotel deserves a plaque on the wall to say that Bernard Levin, an annual visitor to the Festival, cooked himself breakfast in the kitchen on one occasion at four o'clock in the morning, still wearing his flamboyant operatic cloak and full evening dress.
Full details of the Festival programme, 24 October to 4 November, from the Irish Tourist Board, 150 New Bond Street, London WI.