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Country House Opera


MAB

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It's that time of year again, with the country house opera seasons under way.  I'm a fan, but admit that it is expensive, in fact if you wonder what unsubsidised opera would cost, just take a look at the pricing.  Also you need a car, or, as in my case, need a fellow opera fanatic happy to act as chauffeur.  Although some offer transport to railway stations, late finishes are a problem for those with onward journeys.

 

This week I went to the opening night at Garsington (near Stokenchurch), it was a bit chilly, but that is a risk you have to take.  It is a mile and a half drive across the estate to get to the unique glass box opera house with a view of the lake from the terrace.  The stage is very wide and the tiered seating gives an excellent view.  The opera was Rameau's Platee, one of the oddest operas around, but its very uniqueness gives producers the opportunity to be experimental.  This version is inspired by the TV show 'Love Island', but perhaps not a totally original concept as a couple of years ago I saw a production in Salzburg inspired by 'X Factor'.  Here Platee enters a competition on Olympus TV where the prize is marriage to the god Jupiter.  The laughs come thick and fast and the cast appeared to be enjoying themselves as much as the audience.  Samuel Boden in the travesti title role was simply amazing and looked terrific in a tutu, his high tenor is perfect for the role and who would have thought he has circus skills too!

 

The first rate conductor was Paul Agnew of Les Arts Florissants who has sung the role of Platee himself in the past and who conducted in an Olympus TV tee shirt.  At the end of the evening it was a joy to hear the production team being enthusiastically cheered, not something you hear very often these days.

 

So, if you enjoy opera, have deep pockets (or an addiction) and your own transport, off you go!

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Posted (edited)

Garsington Opera is also performing at the Proms at Royal Albert Hall for the first time- sadly not Platee (which I've never seen, and I do like the Rameau that I've heard) but Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream- the only opera version of Shakespeare's play regularly staged. Great cast (Iestyn Davies as Oberon and Lucy Crowe as Titania) and near public transport for those who haven't got the car (or don't like long distance driving), funds or both! I believe it will be semi staged like previous opera performances at Proms (so they'll probably be in costumes but not have a full set, and the soloists and chorus will fit in around the orchestra who are also on stage). 

 

I assume Glyndebourne counts as country house opera too.... they perform in a purpose built theatre on the estate - nice one actually 😀- and you can eat dinner (bring your own picnic or buy a prebooked one there)  in the gardens or dine in one of their restaurants at the very long interval.

 

NB Glyndebourne does offer a minibus/coach that fetches you from  Lewes train station and drops you off there after the performance if you prefer not to drive there and back. Places on the coach/minibus must be prebooked and prepaid. PS many performances are already sold out so you'll need to move quickly if you want a) choice of dates, or b) affordable seats (they do offer standing room nowadays). Their season includes Carmen and The Merry Widow - both new productions. And Glyndebourne are taking their Carmen to the Proms as well (like Garsington, just one performance). 

Edited by Emeralds
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Platée - didn't the Royal Opera do that while out of the House, probably at Sadler's Wells?  I have some mental association with green frogs - and Mark Morris?

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I think you may be right, a friend remembers that one.  I saw the Paris one a couple of years ago where Jupiter was dressed as Elvis Presley.  Actually Platee is a nymph who lives in a stagnant pool and is turning into a frog, though in the Garsington production Platee just likes sitting by a swimming pool and has a penchant for wearing green.

 

 

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That's correct, @alison - September 1997 at Barbican Theatre according to the ROH database. Mark Morris Dance Group and Royal Opera co-production/collaboration. I couldn't go to any performances because I had to work on those evenings- what a pity: Mark Padmore, Susan Gritton, Francois Le Roux, et al.....excellent cast, would like to have seen them. There were  frogs, birds, snakes, a peacock, an alligator etc etc on the cast list.  😀 Was it a good show? 

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6 hours ago, MAB said:

So, if you enjoy opera, have deep pockets (or an addiction) and your own transport, off you go!


Question for any addicts on here: I know Glyndebourne well but have never tried Garsington, Grange Park etc, so might people like to post their compare and contrast impressions of the various regular countryside offerings? 

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3 hours ago, Geoff said:

Question for any addicts on here: I know Glyndebourne well but have never tried Garsington, Grange Park etc, so might people like to post their compare and contrast impressions of the various regular countryside offerings? 

 

Garsington is easiest to get to, situated on the vast Getty estate.   The clientele is similar to Glyndebourne, you eat your picnics in tents but there is also a restaurant, there are bars and a shop.  Also, like Glyndebourne, sheep.  You can visit the gardens via a vintage coach before the performance.  The repertoire  is varied, strong casts, high production values, Richard Strauss is a speciality.  They have big plans for the future now their studios have been built.

 

Grange Park Opera is near West Horsley, there is a train but a long walk to the venue.  It is run by Wasfi Kani, an absolute force of nature.  How she lures stars like Calleja and Terfel, I don't know, but there's no one like her in the opera world, her pre performance talks are legendary and often screamingly funny such as urging the audience to vote on who was most wicked, Henry VIII (six wives) or Ivan the Terrible (nine).  Terrific rep. such as Maid of Pskov and La Gioconda, the best Tristan I've ever seen and a complete Ring cycle in the pipeline.  The theatre is inspired by La Scala and stands next to the stately pile inherited by Bamber Gascoinge.  The gardens are less manicured than Glyndebourne and Garsington but otherwise facilities are very similar.  No sheep though.

 

I've been to Grange Opera just once though I'm going again this year.  Younger clientele, prettier frocks and posher cars than the other venues.  You'll need to switch on the sat nav to find it though.  Beautiful setting above a river, a very romantic atmosphere.  The theatre is built into the former orangery, rather than the separate buildings  of the others.  This one has ballet too, The Brno company this year.  Less exciting rep but performances are a good standard.

 

All three along with Glydebourne are a terrific day out in the summer, you just have to pray the weather behaves.

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7 hours ago, MAB said:

All three along with Glydebourne are a terrific day out in the summer, you just have to pray the weather behaves.


Very many thanks @MAB Really clear and much appreciated. Although one understands the historical reasons, isn’t it a bit silly to have two different countryside opera offerings with “Grange” in their name?
 

I would add that Longborough seems to be in the same category as these four: anyone like to add their impressions to MAB’s? 

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