Summer diversions

As we await the start of the Covent Garden season, as ever there is plenty to amuse. As well as the Proms, which I can’t really say ‘amused’ but had their moments, the last couple of weeks saw a Glyndebourne foray into the French Baroque (Hippolyte et Aricie) and the Bolshio’s Swan Lake washing up at Covent Garden. (more…)

Glyndebourne’s Ariadne

Somewhat belatedly, I’m still musing on Glyndebourne’s Ariadne auf Naxos, seen on Tuesday, 4 June, so I just need to get some thoughts down. Apologies if it feels a bit disjointed.

Katharina Thoma’s production has had its fair share of detractors amongst critics, and with a modicum of justification. It’s interventionist, a faint whiff of Regietheater seeing it set in a country house, modelled on Glyndebourne, during the second world war. Dryad, Naiad and Echo are nurses tending to wounded soldiers during the opera. A bomb gets dropped in the gardens towards the end of the Prologue (well, if you will plan fireworks parties in the middle of the blitz, what do you expect?) In the Opera proper, all are shell-shocked and distressed, there is much assertive use of injections, for both bomb-ravaged soldiers and supposedly sex-crazed commedia dell’arte players (Zerbinetta also gets a straitjacket for good measure). Bacchus is a fighter pilot; I couldn’t quite tell you who Ariadne is in this concept. The composer prowls the stage watching his characters unfold in the opera but, in the process, blurring the divide between the imaginary and the all-too-literal. (more…)

Glyndebourne report

Picnicking on the Glyndebourne lawns

It’s a couple of weeks now since we did our annual trip to Glyndebourne, and I just haven’t had much chance since then to sit down and write it up.  Hence, this will be a quick round-up of both performances (seen on successive days): Cunning Little Vixen and La Cenerentola.

What to say of Vixen, other than that I still don’t quite get it.  The story is thin, to say the least, but to its credit it is told simply and briefly.  Janáček’s spare and direct musical and dramatic style serves only to emphasise the thinness, however, and up until the closing 20 minutes, I watch it mildly entertained, but never moved or gripped. (more…)

Well, that was 2011…

RestrictedView Opera 2011 InfographicRoundups (or should that be ’rounds-up’?) of the past year seem to be all the rage, so I thought I’d join the party. And, rather than just write it up, I thought it deserved the infographic treatment (click on the image, left), which was a neat way of whiling away a few leisurely Christmas hours and learning a bit about my Adobe software along the way.


A triumph of gentility and detail

Despite its length, despite its huge demands for chorus and orchestra, despite its air – from the very first bars of the overture – of pompous grandiosity, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is, at its heart, an intimate tale.  A small community, with its rituals and ceremonies, its civic pride in the very best sense, is thrown into turmoil by an outsider who captivates them whilst breaking their rules and dearly-held traditions.  And in the process, one tale of love blossoms whilst another is set aside.  And in David McVicar’s production for Glyndebourne, I can’t think when I’ve been more struck by this intimacy of the work, or seen it so thrillingly surfaced. (more…)

Have Glyndebourne bitten off more than they can chew?

*Update* April 2013

In the two years since I posted this analysis (which is a rather grand word for it), it has become one of the most popular posts on the blog, and is poised to take top spot from the indignant post about the shoddy behaviour of one of the Royal Opera House’s legal staff members. I thought it might be helpful, therefore, to record a mellowing of opinion on the subject. Not a complete volte-face, but a mellowing nonetheless.

Two booking rounds have occurred in the intervening period. Neither has yielded particular success during Associate Member booking. If you have full whack to lavish on your summer opera-going, then all will indeed be fine and dandy. However, if you are trying to get the tickets below the £75-£100 level of the central Upper Circle, then you will be very frequently disappointed. We have gone back into the public booking round, where there are usually seats available for all but the most in-demand performances, and secured Slips or Standing for what we wanted on both years, which of course are only available through public booking and which we could have done without having coughed up £500 lump sum and about £80p.a. The positives are that, yes, this is the queue for full Festival Society membership, and that may make things marginally easier in time. However, with Slips and Standing excluded from Festival Society booking as well, then you simply have to accept that there are very few restricted view or cheaper options available as a proportion of all seats in the house – and be careful not to judge a 1,200-seat house by the price spread of a 2,300-seater like the ROH, which error may have lain behind my discussion, below.

For something that you are very keen to see, then having a pair of £100 Upper Circle tickets in the bag gives you the confidence to try and get Slips or Standing and, if successful, return the higher priced seats for resale; if not, you can fall back on them as your insurance option. You may be on baked-beans-on-toast for a couple of weeks, but you are very likely to get to see something fantastic, from what is a very good viewpoint. Alternatively, your success rate will be higher if you go for the revivals rather than the new productions, or favour the likes of L’elisir d’amore over the big-ticket items such as Tristan und Isolde.

I still have misgivings about the Associate Membership scheme, but am in now and so I will sit it out to get through to Festival Society membership. Failing all else, I have to consider myself a very minor philanthropist, and just sit on the manicured lawns of East Sussex each year confident in the knowledge that I’ve chipped my two penn’orth into the running of an operatic outfit of supreme quality.

The original post [unaltered]

Last year, I entered the ballot for the newly-reopened ‘Associate Member’ Scheme for the Glyndebourne Festival Society.  For those unfamiliar, there are a number of ways to get tickets to Glyndebourne.  You can hope something will be available at the time public booking opens and, if you have £200+ to spend per ticket, the chances are you’ll get something for all but the most popular events. To edge further forward in the queue, you can join the Mailing List for £20 and get a priority booking window just before public booking.  [Not any more you can’t…] This is also the earliest time that you will have access to the Slips seats and Standing Places in the cheapest, £20-60 range.  They are good sightlines in the main, and an excellent way to (affordably) see opera of this standard and to experience the whole Glyndebourne afternoon hoo-ha. (more…)