Last Updated on January 15, 2023
Oh Those Summer Nights!
One of the glories of the English summer is the chance to enjoy a pint or three of fizz with a scrumptious picnic in the surroundings of a country country house and then immerse yourself in a superb opera performance. We are happy to provide you with information on 4 summer festivals within a stone’s throw of Big Smoke. The future of opera in this country is threatened by the recent cuts of the Arts Council, so it is very important that we support this festival and its artists. If you’re not the casual opera goer then this is a great introduction to the art form, a special event of dressing up but with a relaxed atmosphere where socializing with friends is part of the occasion.
Glyndebourne is of course the father of the summer opera festival, founded in 1934 when John Christie met his great lover, soprano Audrey Mildmay. Glyndebourne now hosts more than 150,000 visitors each summer, all dressed in DJ costumes and fancy skirts. There are picnic-style around the lake or there are several on-site restaurants. We reviewed last year’s La Bohème, Puccini’s heart-wrenching tale of bohemian life around a Parisian loft. And, for something completely different, proceeded to cover Poulenc’s double bill, La Voix Humaine and Les Mamelles de Tirésias, the latter of which brought the house down with a very un-English guttural laugh.
This year’s festival includes director Mariame Clément’s new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, giving us a glimpse into the mind of one of opera’s most celebrated seductresses. There’s the romantic comedy Donizetti L’Elisir d’Amore, the Glyndebourne premiere of Poulenc’s revolutionary modern masterpiece Dialog des Carmélites, the return of Peter Hall’s magical production of Britten’s classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the festival’s first staging of Handel’s Semele with a story based on Ovid and Hogarthian’s Metamorphoses Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. There is easy access to the Sussex Glyndebourne house by road (A22) or train. If you travel by train there is a real party atmosphere as the Lewes service from Victoria is packed with men and women in evening clothes. There is a coach service from the station to the Opera House (booking essential). General reservations open in March 2023 so be sure to make a date in your diary.
Garsington Opera is a six-week summer opera festival founded in 1989 by Leonard Ingrams that takes place at the stunning Wormsley Estate in Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire, about an hour from West London. It’s on a more intimate scale than Glyndebourne but there’s no compromise on artistic quality and there’s still the chance to have a picnic by the lake! We loved the amazing Orfeo Monteverdi production there last year (see our review). We also enjoyed The Turn of the Screw – perhaps the perfect opera to perform on the set of Country House?
Garsington has an ongoing partnership with Ollie Dabbous, patron chef of Michelin-starred restaurant HIDE, so if you prefer not to picnic and want to dine at the Long Room Restaurant, you are in safe hands.
Season 2023 begins with Rossini’s comic masterpiece Il Barbiere di Siviglia followed by Mitridate, re di Ponto, a work of jaw-dropping classic craftsmanship, written by 14-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Richard Strauss’ Ariadne Auf Naxos with its superb juxtaposition of the comic and tragic and Smetana’s vibrant revival of Czech country life The Bartered Bride make up the rest of the festival. Public bookings open online from 10am on April 4 2023 and Wormsley Estate is close to the M40 at junction 5 or can be visited by train to High Wycombe and then by pre-booked bus.
The Grange is the only British opera house with its own vineyard! It is located in the Orangerie neo-classical ruins of The Grange in Hampshire. They can provide picnic dinners in the splendor of their homes or in glittering tents. This year’s list of operas begins with Mozart’s classical battle of the sexes, Cosi fan Tutte, followed by double bills from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas; their last operatic offering of the season was the setting for Pushkin’s play The Queen of Spades by Tchaikovsky. This year The Grange are doing something a little different with their jazz night – Ellington: from stride to strings – to add a bit of swing to the proceedings. The theater is located between the M3 and A31, northeast of Winchester and online bookings open March 1st.
Opera Holland Park offers a stellar production in ‘the beautiful formal gardens and wilderness of Holland Park’ in the heart of West London. The show takes place in an open-air, canopied auditorium with the audience seated on charming piles of recycled chairs, so even though you’re completely protected from the vagaries of the weather, there’s a feeling of being at one with nature. We really enjoyed our experience there watching Handel’s Baroque Serse masterpiece (see our review). The 2023 Holland Park Opera season includes new productions Rigoletto, Hansel and Gretel and La Bohème plus Ruddigore’s co-production with Charles Court Opera. And, the premiere of Jonathan Dove’s elemental hunting opera adventure, Itch, in co-production with the Canadian Opera Company, Toronto.
All four houses have excellent offerings for younger crowds. Opera Holland Park provides free tickets for those under 18 to all of their shows and heavily discounted tickets for those under 30 (and for various community groups and over 65!). Glyndebourne has a special buddy scheme for those under 30 and under 40, again offering heavily discounted tickets. Grange Park has 36 tickets costing £36 per show available if you are under 36 (you need to book by the end of January!) and Garsington has an under 35 membership scheme along with heavily discounted return tickets for younger people
Let us know if you’ll be going to any of the productions, we might see you there!
You can find out more and order from the following link:
Garsington Opera House
Dutch Opera Park