Saturday, July 7, 2012


Today we went to Glyndebourne with our friends Renzo & Annette, both avid opera buffs. I'd never been before, which is strange given my job, the fact I grew up in the same county, and went to university just a few miles away. But perhaps not so strange given I'm not particularly partial to the genre and can count the number of production I've seen on one hand, so I'm not a good judge. 
In any case, Glyndebourne is different, it's a whole experience: its setting in the South Downs, its history (established by the Christie family in 1934 - same year as the British Council), its context adjacent to the beautiful 16thC Christie house, its incredibly loyal fan base (all performances sell out; you have to kill for tickets), the black tie dress code, the picnics on the lawns and the intimate atmosphere of the theatre itself. It started out as amateur dramatics but quickly became professional, outgrowing its piecemeal-developed theatre until a completely new one was built in 1994. What's particularly interesting is that it was paid for largely (90%) by its fan base, and the whole caboodle still operates without Arts Council funding (as opposed to the Royal Opera House, for example, which receives £26m p.a.). 
Anyway, it was all most enjoyable. We brought a picnic, but because of the inevitable rain, set it up in the semi-covered perimeters of the theatre which seemed to be designed for it. In fact, it was so full of little tables, each with neat table-cloths, champers in ice-buckets, even vases with flowers, that it took a while finding a spot. 
And the opera? Oh yes, we saw Rossini's La Cenerentola, which is basically the (pre-Disney) Cinderella story. A good romp, some fine singing, a nice set design, actually quite funny in parts. The Guardian gave it five stars. Me? I enjoyed it, but honestly I found the music pretty forgettable, the acting exaggerated (which I should just accept - that's opera... although funnily enough, the Chinese star Shenyang was utterly wooden), and of course it was overly long. But that aside, I did enjoy it. 
Interestingly, I just read the audience comments on the Glyndebourne blogsite and found the following: "We live in China for much of the year but look forward immensely to Glyndebourne on our annual summer visit... We would not have missed this production for anything. It was terrific." It wasn't us, but I would echo it. Thank you Renzo & Annette!

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