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Glyndebourne Visit

Three tenors, Bert Cutts, Gerry Peachey and myself, were invited to the famous Glyndebourne Opera House, near Lewes and granted a backstage tour (in exchange for £13.50 – “yes it is EACH, Bert”) and enjoyed a very pleasant morning despite the cold.
Our eloquent and attractive female guide Lucy revealed a colourful history and ambitious future for this sturdy monument to culture that grows gradually more available to the genera l public in these enlightened times. It all started with a gentleman named John Christie, who in 1913 bought the mansion house that used to stand alone on the site and after marrying Canadian diva Audrey Mildmay, who he met when she came to one of his “music evenings”, set about building the iconic theatre that stands there today and which is now run by his heir, Sir George Christie.
I have recently been to a couple of performances of Mozart there having obtained some cheap(ish) tickets and somehow wangled better seats than I ought to have had on the night. I’ve also been lucky enough to visit the Royal Opera House in London, and been taken on a tour of that fabulous building, as well but Glyndebourne measures up very well.
From the massive Organ Room, which was once the house where all Christie’s musical interludes took place, we were taken into the theatre, then backstage (which seems like an indoor Wembley Stadium), the dressing rooms (the conductor of the orchestra has the best one, but none of them are very big), the rehearsal spaces and the stockrooms full of props and stage outfits.
Backstage was obviously the big attraction. The guide told us that the night she spent observing up close the work of the behind-the-scenes crew was more exciting than any grand performance on the stage, and I can well imagine this to be true. If you are in the theatre watching an opera you feel part of a large crowd but from the business end you can readily accept the fact that the capacity audience is only around 1500. This is probably why the tickets are so expensive and, in the main, hard to obtain.
Finally, we went back outside to look at the gardens (where picnic parties are highly popular during the annual festival) and the statues of John Christie and his beloved Audrey - plus the private wind turbine which, amazingly, generates 90% of the company’s electricity needs.
The whole tour takes just about 90 minutes but is value for money and completely fascinating.
Go if you can.


posted: Saturday, 18 February 2017

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