Rosemary Kennedy: Telling the story of a forgotten daughter - The Irish Times

Tuesday, 2 July, 2019
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Composer Brian Irvine’s new opera focuses on JFK’s intellectually disabled sister

Michael Dervan, The Irish Times, 2nd July 2019

“It started about five years ago,” explains composer Brian Irvine. We’re talking in a studio at Dance Ireland at the end of a day’s rehearsal of his new opera, Least Like The Other: Searching for Rosemary Kennedy. “A friend of mine told me about Rosemary Kennedy, and had actually written a play about it. That was the start of investigating her life and all the events that happened around her.”

It would all be very straightforward if he was talking about Rose Kennedy, mother of three great US politicians, John F Kennedy, Robert F Kennedy and Ted Kennedy. But he’s not. The woman who inspired his opera is Rose’s daughter, Rosemary, who was born in 1918 and died a natural death in 2005, and who was almost airbrushed out of the family history.

Irvine became totally immersed in his subject, and he created “a big repository of music” which he wrote “as an innate reaction to things. I had no great purpose. It was a kind of reflection on things. That repository included 10 orchestral pieces, about 20 or 30 other fragments of stuff. But I was not really sure what I was doing on any level.”

He talked to Fergus Sheil, who is now artistic director of Irish National Opera, but was then involved with Wide Open Opera and Opera Theatre Company. They discussed the possibility of using the material as the basis for an opera or other stage work.

I’d never heard of her before. Which is extraordinary. But I know a lot of people that haven’t. And that’s part of our story

Two years ago he met Netia Jones. He really hit it off with the award-winning director, designer and video artist, who works in opera and theatre and also creates staged concerts. The process that would lead to Least Like The Other was in train. It took on a life of its own.

Read the full article here.