Glyndebourne is Sussex’s Old Trafford, Louvre, Prado, Nou Camp, Olympic stadium….international destinations showcasing the best in the world – to the world. And it’s on our doorsteps.
The Glyndebourne Tour comes to a close this weekend, but singers, actors, musicians and scenery hands now go on the road to bring sensationally sung, designed, staged and lit opera to the rest of the UK.
It’s a chance for opera fiends to stock up the spiritual and psychological pleasures which will tide them over the winter until next summer’s Festival.
The Tour comprised Dvorak’s Rusalka; new opera The Yellow Sofa by Julian Philips and the glorious Le nozze di Figaro by Mozart which so cleverly laces politics with comedy but zips along at warp speed so any ‘message’ is lightly delivered.
Figaro focuses on the eternal tension between men and women, delineated by class which in 18th century Europe dictated what people could or could not do, and what power they would have over their own lives. The ritual of droit de seigneur is the spectre at the marriage feast and the class struggle plays out just 11 years before the French Revolution.
But enough of the heavy significance. Director Michael Grandage set this Figaro in the swinging sixties with more psychedelic print frocks, kipper ties, collared shirts and hippy-trippyness than you could shake a Sergeant Pepper LP cover at.
His magnificent singers strutted their clothes with enthusiasm, threw in a few classy moves (a ‘Strictly’ role is in line for Andrew Slater who played Bartolo with wild abandon and had the audience on their feet) and handled Mozart’s rapid-fire libretto with ease. How wonderfully Mozart wrote for his opera stars – the glorious music complemented the voices, rather than forcing them to compete with an orchestral score washing them ashore like a tsunami.
To the stars. Figaro was played with power and charisma by Ferrara-born Guido Loconsolo. Balancing him with an equivalent ‘look-at-me’ aura was American soprano Joelle Harvey whose petite blondeness never obscured her strength. The entire cast was sublimely balanced and it would be unfair to praise one individual but John Moore played the jealous count with comic genius underpinned by threat. This man had armies and they would come for you.
As always the sets were elegant, restrained and wonderfully lit, culminating in a mini ‘Alhambra’ complete with Moorish lanterns and arches decorated with stone tracery.
The Tour sets out for Woking this week, moving to Norwich, Wimbledon, Covent Garden, Plymouth, Canterbury, Milton Keynes and closing in Stoke on Trent in December.
Picture by Bill Cooper