Oh hi there!
If you cast your mind back in time to a fortnight ago, you may recall I did a preview post about my upcoming trip to Glyndebourne, the festival opera. And go to Glyndebourne I did, so here is my review of the day. This is an account of what my eyes saw!
After the drive down, my lovely mum and I were greeted by a friendly PR, then treated to a glass of champagne before being given a mini tour of the grounds and house.
Let it not be said that I shy away from dressing up. Rather, I embrace every opportunity to get gussied up to the nines and go over the top. It's not really possible to go over the top with glamour at Glyndebourne though, everyone is supremely elegant. It was just as I imagined, ladies in gowns and stoles, gents in tuxedos at every turn, strolling and picnicking in the lovely gardens.
Carefully tended to by a very small army of gardeners, the flowers are truly gorgeous!
The perfectly manicured lawns play host to loungers and picnickers
Look at the lovely borders! Not me, the borders!
Some folks probably sit in the same place, year after year. Here, they overlook the lake and even bring candelabras!
Dapper attendees strolling in their finery
The old pile, looking majestic in the hazy evening sunshine, is slightly dwarfed by the new opera house, which I didn't photograph. But we did go into the wonderful, 600-year-old house, most of which is closed off due to still being a family home.
The organ room contains what you might expect... but it's for display only and not connected in any way! The flower arrangements are, of course, taken entirely from the grounds. There's also a kitchen garden which supplies the produce for the restaurants and the food for the performers, who all live on site during the festival and use the house and grounds as their own. We were told a great tale about Pavarotti - when he came to perform at Glyndebourne as a very young man, he was torn between being a professional opera singer or a footballer. After he spent his downtime playing football in the garden... he was told by his colleagues to stick to the singing. Haha!
Above, you can see the founder of the Festival Opera, John Christie and the lady he created the whole thing for - Audrey Mildmay. She was a stunning and talented opera singer, he fell in love with her and the rest is history. The first opera was staged in 1934 and was the Marriage of Figaro. Side note: my mum hates that opera and was very grateful I wasn't taking her to see it this time!
This is a doorstop. Pugs are a motif that features throughout the house. Apparently the family have always historically had them!
There is also lots of lovely art dotted around the house and grounds, including a sculpture trail.
So, after this tour, we went into watch the first half of Ariadne Auf Naxos. What a fun and strange opera! I had to read up the synopsis afterwards to make sense of it since the subtitles weren't clear from our seats. The first half (of this 1940s-set production) takes place in a country house during WWII, where performers have been hired to put on a show - one a burlesque troupe with clowns and one 'proper' opera singer, each with their own composer. The butler comes in and informs the two groups that they must now perform together and much clashing ensues. Then a bomb falls and everything blows up. The costumes are fabulous and the singing is just wonderful - they are all such skilled performers. The second half, usually on a desert island, is set in the same country house, which has been requisitioned as a field hospital, with most of the characters going completely mad and lots of impassioned goings on take place. The nymphs are brilliant as nurses and all are still in fabulous costumes and doing wonderful singing! All I can suggest is that if my vague and confusing description intrigues you, have a peek at the Ariadne video which I just discovered is streamed on the Guardian site. I might watch it again!
In the middle of each Glyndebourne production is the famously long interval - an hour and a half in which to eat, drink and relax. Much of the audience retires to the gardens to eat their picnics - you can bring your own or have one provided by the company. My amazing mum very generously treated us to dinner at 'Nether Wallop' - a carvery restaurant on-site which is where my grandfather used to take the family when they went in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Apparently it's changed a little since then (unsurprisingly) but the food was still delicious. You can't really beat a roast dinner.
Obligatory roast beef with a little side of salmon en croute, since I asked the server nicely.
This lady. ♥
I bought this amazing 1940s evening gown for the Chap Ball, but it didn't arrive in time. I then managed to somehow get a tiny spot of white paint on it, which teleported itself across the room when I was redecorating. You can see it near the bottom. Luckily the worst is on the inside! What an eedjit I am. Anyway.
As you can see, it has a rather glorious side swag/drape detail and a short split, in addition to the sunburst beaded neckline. I adore it, even if it's probably an inch or two too short and so I opted to wear it with flat gold sandals instead. Not very 40s but I think it still works!
My handbag is a gold 1950s one with leopard print accents. It's not a clutch bag at all, and the reason I'm holding it like that is because the strap broke as I walked towards the event. Such is life with vintage accessories! My flowers are two I got from that most chainy of all chain stores - H&M and my earrings are simple trashy gold hoops from Claires Accessories. So glam, you guys.
In summary, Glyndebourne is a very unique place and I had a great time. In some ways, it's still a very traditional sort of organisation with lots of long-held customs and ways of doing things; but they are trying so hard to bring it up to date with things like live streaming to cinemas and modern art - to draw in Bright Young Things and keep it alive for future generations without driving off their older, long-term clientele. Not an easy job at all and they're doing it well! Speaking for myself, it was magical to go there in the afternoon, promenade around the house and the flower and art-filled gardens and around the lake (which I failed to photograph), before watching an opera. Then, dining in the twilight, before having another little walk before the second half and the end of the evening. It can be expensive - the top priced seats would stymie even my most well-paid friends, but there are some more affordable seats as well, with the magic of the whole affair making up the rest of what is truly a wonderful experience. I hope I get to go again and even if I don't, I will be the one telling my kids about that time I went to Glyndebourne, wore an evening gown and fur trimmed coat (which again, I didn't photograph, silly me), and saw the opera in style!
Until next time...