About Us

The Blackwater Valley Opera Festival was established in 2010 by a small group of opera professionals and is Ireland’s only summer opera festival. It started out as Lismore Opera Festival, but as our programme expanded throughout the area, the name was changed to the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival.

The opera itself is held in the breathtakingly beautiful surroundings of Lismore Castle and Gardens on the shores of the scenic Blackwater River. Lismore Castle, the privately-owned residence of the Duke of Devonshire and his family, plays host to intimate, close-up opera in the transformed upper stables in the grounds of the castle by kind permission of Lord and Lady Burlington.

The Blackwater Valley Opera Festival has converted the former stables into a beautiful setting for its productions, adding a roof, and tiered seating to maximise comfort for the festival’s patrons. A much-anticipated annual event on the European music festival calendar, the festival attracts local and international music lovers and visitors to the region. As a festival for lovers of music and the good things in life, it incorporates beautiful locations, unique historic venues, landscape, architecture, gardens, music, food and wine.

The Blackwater Opera Festival believes in nurturing young talent, providing opportunities for up and coming artistes, and also in introducing the next generation to the beauty of classic music and opera.For detailed information see our education page

As well as opera, The Blackwater Valley Opera Festival features musical events and recitals in St. Carthage’s Cathedral and in some of the wonderful historic great houses and gardens along the Blackwater valley, as well as at Villierstown and Dromore Yard, a romantic converted 18th century farm yard. A key element of the Blackwater Valley is our engagement with schools and schoolchildren, helping to inspire the musicians and singers – and the audiences – of the future.

“To bring beautiful music to a stunning location and create the audience of the future for the most beautiful of all art forms – Opera!”

In the words of his Excellency, President Michael D. Higgins, “Music is such a powerful medium and the Lismore Opera Festival has been working tirelessly promoting the beauty and relevance of opera. It is wonderful to witness results of the drive and enthusiasm of such dedicated people making opera more accessible and connected to audiences in such an inclusive and authentic manner.”


Michael Alen-Buckley (chairman)
Michael co-founded RAB Capital plc in 1999 and is Executive Chairman. He was a Director and Head of International Equity Sales at ABN-AMRO Hoare Govett from 1996 to 1998 and prior to that Director of Institutional Sales at Merrill Lynch (previously Smith New Court) from 1991 to 1996. Between 1987 and 1991 he was a Senior Executive for UK equity sales at James Capel & Co. He was a founding member of the Hedge Fund Working Group which evolved into the Hedge Fund Standards Board. Michael is Chairman of the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival Board and Founding Partner of the ARK Brunel Academy.  He is also on the Board of the Irish Georgian Society.  Michael is also a supporter of The Bush Theatre, Almeida Theatre, Donmar Warehouse plus Garsington and Glyndebourne operas. Michael has been a Lismore Music Festival, and now BVOF Board Member since 2017.

Eamonn Carroll
Eamonn is an experienced development professional with a significant track record in high-level sponsorship negotiation, implementation and activation. He is currently the Membership Relationship Manager at the RDS. Prior to this he directed the sponsorship and Friends strategy for Wexford Festival Opera and Wexford Opera House and managed key relationships for the company with leading Irish and international philanthropists. He has represented the cultural sector on the Minister’s Working Group on Arts Funding & Philanthropy. Formerly, Eamonn was Assistant Chief Executive and Head of Fundraising with the leading Irish research charity Fighting Blindness and Vice-President of the Students’ Union at NUI Maynooth. Eamonn has been a Lismore Music Festival, and now BVOF Board Member since 2017.

Giancarla Alen-Buckley
Gianni has worked as an independent documentary film maker for broadcast television in the UK (1980-1997). She is a Founding Partner of the ARK Brunel Academy School and has been a board member and fundraiser for KIDS, the UK-based charity providing services for children with disabilities and their families (1999-2006), and a board member and fundraiser for the Alternative Theatre Company, AKA The Bush Theatre, London, (2006-2018). With particular expertise in youth development, education and hospitality, she is also a Board Member of the RFHotels Group since 2014. has been a Lismore Music Festival, and now BVOF Board Member since 2017.

Brian Kingham
Brian Kingham is a London and Wicklow based businessman.  He has founded more than a dozen businesses in support services, security, building engineering and electronic systems.  He has interests in cyber security, data analytics and the digital economy.  He is a global investor in early stage technologies. He is a supporter of various youth development initiatives in education and entrepreneurial endeavour.  He has a long association with the University of Buckingham where he was Chairman of the new Medical School Development Board and provides an annual Scholarship for Entrepreneurs.  He is a former member of the Court of Brunel University.  He was an early promoter of private opera in London and country houses organising private performances for more than 30 years. Brian has been a Lismore Music Festival, and now BVOF Board Member since 2016.

Conor Doyle
Conor is Chairman and 50% shareholder of Doyle Shipping Group (DSG). DSG provides shipping services in six ports in Ireland. Conor Doyle is Finnish Consul in Cork. He is a director of Corcadorca. Among his former offices he was Chairman of Cork Port Company 1989-91, President of Cork Chamber of Cork Chamber of Commerce 1997/9, Chairman of National Sculpture Factory 2008-2017, Commodore of Kinsale Yacht Club 1983-86. He was formerly a director of Eagle Star Insurance Company and Cork and Limerick Savings Bank. Conor has been a Lismore Music Festival, and now BVOF Board Member since 2017.

Tom McCarthy
Tom holds a BA in Economics, an MBA and a DBA from University College Cork. Tom is the Managing Director of McCarthy Developments (Cork) Ltd. which is a property development company and is part of a wider business portfolio which includes McCarthy Properties (Property Management Entity), privately owned, successful commercial entities that are opportunity led. The group’s main focus in on the residential, commercial and leisure sectors. Tom takes an entrepreneurial approach to business, is opportunity led and results driven. He believes in integrating the highest quality standards across all aspects of the business. His core competencies are in risk management and strategic planning. He has a proven track record in dealing with the complexities of asset acquisition and management, managing multi-location projects, involving large multi-disciplinary teams while maintaining effective financial management and a strong customer focus. Tom has been a Lismore Music Festival, and now BVOF Board Member since 2017.

Pat Howett
Patrick is a Chartered Accountant .He qualified with PWC where he worked in the Audit and the Tax Departments. He joined JLT as Finance Controller in 1984 and filled various roles before being appointed Chief Executive in 1995 a position he still fulfils. He served on the Irish Brokers Association of Ireland from 1992 to 1995 where he chaired the Strategy and Technology Committees. He has a keen interest in music having been a member of the Italian institute choir and Kilmacud Musical Society. Currently he is a member of the Celtic Choristers and the Rathfarnham Ukulele Group. Patrick has been a Lismore Music Festival, and now BVOF Board Member since 2018.


Contact details

+353 (0)85 207 8944 boxoffice@blackwatervalleyoperafestival.com