The oldest woman in Limerick was a joyous operatic journey into the lives and stories of older people that Wide Open Opera met on the journey to find The Oldest Woman in Limerick.
The first half of the opera told the story of the quest to find the oldest woman. The search was not straightforward. Maria Larkin, a researcher who worked with WOO, herself became featured in the opera. A journey to Limerick’s Genealogy office was chronicled as records and files were pulled apart. A Lithuanian living in Limerick phoned her Grandmother at home and came up with stories and proverbs from her life. Many older people in Limerick were encountered; several were profiled. Significant events in history were retold. Finally the search yielded a result. The 104-year old Sr Anthony of the Little Companions of Mary was discovered in retirement in Limerick.
The second half of the opera told the remarkable story of Sr Anthony and her long life which was mostly spent in Italy working as a nurse in Rome and Florence. In her early life she was a camogie enthusiast (when the game was distrusted by the Church), and she had a lifelong love of Italian soccer. During the Second World War she personally encountered Mussolini and Hitler, but spent most of her energies sheltering Jews. She recounted her life events to Wide Open Opera and her unique story made a compelling and deeply personal piece of theatre.
Composed by Brian Irvine, with text by John McIlduff this opera was a once-off production involving a professional cast, a specially recruited local chorus, children and a 11-piece orchestra. It was a major event of the 2014 Limerick City of Culture programme developed in association with Lime Tree Theatre, Limerick.