Cuireadh dhá cheolchoirm ar siúl san Ancient Concert Rooms chun codanna de cheoldráma an Bhuitléaraigh, Muirghéis, a chur i láthair an phobail. Ba bheag ar fad a tháinig chuig an chéad athcheadal ar 20 Aibreán 1902. ‘The audience seemed scarcely more numerous than the performers. Some attributed the fewness of the spectators to injudicious advertising, others spoke of boycotting. There were tales of personal quarrels which it is better not to discuss’ (The Leader 13 Bealtaine 1902). Ach in eagrán 26 Aibreán moladh an ceol: ‘... the work impressed me with the feeling that its maker was a man of zeal and invention and refinement, inspired beyond anyone I have ever known by the ancient song of Eireann .... The music of Mr O’Brien Butler is, to my mind, a most refining educative influence in the propaganda of the Gaelic League. It is the birth of a genuine national school of music’.

Ag cruinniú Choiste GnóChonradh na Gaeilge 29 Aibreán thuairiscigh Eoin Mac Néill go raibh na léirmheasanna fabhrach agus go raibh cloiste aige go mbeadh an dara ceolchoirm ar siúl. Chinn an Coiste ar urraíocht a dhéanamh air agus tacaíocht an Chonartha a thabhairt dó. Dúradh in An Claidheamh Soluis 7 Meitheamh: ‘The opera is the first ever written in Irish words or in Irish music, and for that reason alone should demand support. The composer has come to the Gaelic League with his work, and the Gaelic Leaguers of Dublin should support him in his enterprising attempt’.

I bhfógra san uimhir chéanna deirtear gur ar 12 Meitheamh san Ancient Concert Rooms a bheidh an cheolchoirm, tugtar ainmneacha na n-amhránaithe (an Buitléarach féin ina measc) agus na gceoltóirí agus deirtear gurbh é Torna a chum na focail Ghaeilge. Ní luaitear ainm údar na bunleabhróige, Nora Hopper. Thabharfadh duine leis ó thuairisc ar 21 Meitheamh nár tháinig arís ach beagán daoine.

Léiríodh Muirghéis i mBéarla ina iomláine ar feadh na seachtaine dar tús 7 Nollaig 1903 san Amharclann Ríoga i mBaile Átha Cliath. Dúirt Edward Martyn ina thaobh: ‘When the libretto of the play is tightened and translated into Irish and when the music is intensified in the most dramatic duets it will be a real delight to see it performed again for it contains some of the most beautiful modern music I know’ (An Claidheamh Soluis 19 Nollaig 1903). Ní dóigh gur tugadh léiriú iomlán don leagan Gaeilge riamh. D’fhoilsigh Breitkopf & Hartel é maille le focail Nora Hopper agus aistriúchán Thorna i 1910.

Iníon le Major Hopper, Éireannach, agus lena bhanchéile Bhreatnach ba ea Nora Hopper (2 Eanáir 1871–6 Aibreán 1906). I Sasana a rugadh í agus ann a chaith sí a saol ach aithnítear mar dhuine d’fhilí an chlapsholais Cheiltigh í. Is í a chum an liric ‘By the short cut to the Rosses’. Thug George Moore cabhair di chun scéal an cheoldráma a leagan amach. Foilsíodh focail Muirghéis ina leabhar Aquamarines, 1902.

I gceantar Chathair Saidhbhín a rugadh an Buitléarach i mí na Samhna 1861. In Uíbh Ráthach a shuígh sé a cheoldráma. Bhí sé 49 mbliana i 1911 dar le daonáireamh na bliana sin. Thug sé le fios freisin ansiúd go raibh sé pósta le sé bliana anuas. Ní i dteach an Bhuitléaraigh (Muirghéis Hall, Aidencarrick, Cill Mochióg, Ráth Fearnáin) a chaith a bhean oíche an daonáirimh. Cumadóir ceoil agus úinéir talaimh an cur síos a rinne sé air féin. Níor thug sé freagra ar an gceist i dtaobh eolas na Gaeilge. Caitliceach Rómhánach ba ea é.

Ní thugann na leabhair thagartha d’eolas ach go ndearna sé staidéar ar cheol sa Róimh, agus faoi Stanford agus Parratt i Londain. Is cosúil go raibh sé an-tugtha do bheith ag taisteal. I dtuairisc a bháis in Freeman’s Journal dúradh gur le linn dó bheith i Kashmir san India a chum sé ceol Muirghéis. In United Irishman 28 Deireadh Fómhair 1899 ionsaíodh é faoi litir a bhí aige in Irish Times ag tairiscint coirm cheoil a chur ar siúl ar mhaithe le cleithiúnaithe na nÉireannach a bhí ag troid in aghaidh na mBórach.

Baineann mistéir de chineál éigin lena ainm. In Macmillan Dictionary of music and musicians, 1938 deirtear gurb é a cheartsloinne ‘O’Brien Whitwell’. Ainm baiste coitianta go leor é ‘Whitwell’ i measc na mBuitléarach. Thiomnaigh sé a leabhar Seven original Irish melodies, 1903 do ‘my ancestress Margaret, Lady Dunboyne, daughter of Conor O’Brien, 3rd Earl of Thomond’. D’éag sise i 1636. In uacht an chumadóra luaitear deartháir leis, ‘Pierce D. Butler, gentleman’. Scríobh Tiarna Dhún Búinne aiste in Irish Genealogist, Vol 8 No 1 1990, ‘The Family of O’Brien Butler’, agus b’fhéidir a bhaint as an abairt seo thíos nach raibh de cheart ag an gcumadóir ‘O’Brien Butler’ a thabhairt air féin: ‘Some there be, of other families, who have betimes chosen to call themselves “O’Brien Butler” – notably among the Butlers of Caherciveen whose Thomas (1861–1915) wrote under the name of O’Brien Butler and, when in India, composed the first opera ever to be produced to a libretto in Gaelic. “He had genius”, said W. B. Yeats.’

Mhaígh Thomas McDonagh i 1914 go raibh sraith de thrí cheoldráma faoi Tháin Bó Cuailgne á ullmhú aige i bpáirtíocht leis an mBuitléarach ach os a choinne sin deir beathaisnéisí Mhic Dhonnchadha go raibh sé tugtha don áibhéal (Norstadt, Thomas McDonagh: a critical biography, 1980).

‘The gentle accomplished musical composer’ a thugann an Bantiarna Gregory air ina leabhar ar a nia Sir Hugh Lane. Casadh eisean ar an mBuitléarach nuair a bhí sé mar aoi sa Chúil. Is inspéise go raibh an bheirt acu le chéile arís sa Lusitania nuair a cuireadh go tóin poill í 7 Bealtaine 1915. Is cosúil go raibh an Buitléarach ar a bhealach go Meiriceá chun iarracht a dhéanamh ar Muirghéis a léiriú ann. I litir dar dáta 21 Bealtaine sa Leabharlann Náisiúnta (NLI MS 13073) scríobh John Devoy: ‘... poor O’Brien Butler went on that vessel in spite of personal warnings’.

Fear a raibh an dúspéis aige sa cheol ba ea Edward Martyn agus scríobh sé i dtaobh cumadóirí na hÉireann in aiste dar teideal ‘The Gaelic League and Irish music’ (The Irish Review, November 1911): ‘They did not write Irish music as Greig for instance wrote Norwegian music. It was left to O’Brien Butler to attempt that. His interesting experiments, after his being saturated by the folk, entitle him to be the father of Irish composers’. Is cosúil go gcloiseadh an Buitléarach amhráin á rá ina óige i gCiarraí agus go háirithe ag a sheanbhuime ann, Nóra Bean Mhic Ghiolla Phádraig.

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Diarmuid Breathnach

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