When landowner John Christie built a small opera house for his professional soprano wife in the rolling Sussex Downs, he unwittingly founded Country House Opera. The Glyndebourne Festival started there in 1934 with two Mozart operas, and since then its popularity has inexorably grown. Today, Glyndebourne epitomises the English summertime.
Several other venues have followed Glyndebourne’s example and Garsington, now celebrating its 30th anniversary, has also established a sterling reputation for the world-class standard of its opera festival. Founded in 1989 by the owner of Garsington Manor, an estate near Oxford where the Bloomsbury Group often congregated during the 1920s, the Festival moved in 2011 to a purpose-built theatre at nearby Wormsley Park, the home of Mark Getty in Buckinghamshire.
The tour begins at Glyndebourne with this year’s must-see new production – it’s first ever staging of Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust. Based on Goethe’s classic play, Faust was designated a légende dramatique rather than an opera and stagings are still comparatively rare. But in the hands of the great director Richard Jones, and with fabulous international stars Allan Clayton (Faust) and Christopher Purves (Méphistophélès), with Glyndebourne’s musical director Robin Ticciati conducting, this scenic roller-coaster certainly promises to be a fantastic start to our tour.
Smaller scale but equally heady, Rossini’s Commedia, Il barbiere di Siviglia, is the world’s most popular comic opera. This colourful and modern 2016 production by Annabel Arden received enthusiastic reviews for its lightness and fun, and we have the bonus of the great baritone Alessandro Corbelli in the role of
Dr Bartolo, Rosina’s jealous guardian who tries to thwart the Barber’s wiles.
We shall then continue to Garsington to see their new version of Don Giovanni. It will be fascinating to see a brand new take on another of the top ten great operas by Michael Boyd, former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Garsington has received glowing plaudits for its recent Mozart productions so this is certainly something to look forward to.
Accompanied by musician and writer, Amanda Holden, there are daily talks on all three operas.
Horsted, Glyndebourne. The coach leaves Lewes station at 1.30pm for the short drive to the hotel. After a talk at the hotel leave in the afternoon for Glyndebourne; La damnation de Faust (Berlioz): Robin Ticciati (conductor), Richard Jones (director), Allan Clayton (Faust), Christopher Purves (Méphistophélès), Julie Boulianne (Marguerite), Ashley Riches (Brander). The performance begins at 5.00pm. Dinner is served during the long interval. First of two nights in Horsted.
Horsted, Glyndebourne. In the morning there is a guided walk around Lewes. In the afternoon, attend a talk and drive to Glyndebourne. Martin Randall Travel has arranged a drinks reception before the performance of Il barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini): Rafael Payare (conductor) Annabel Arden (director), Andrey Zhilikhovsky (Figaro), Hyesang Park (Rosina), Alessandro Corbelli (Bartolo), Levy Segkapane (Count Almaviva), Janis Kelly (Berta), Adam Palka (Basilio). The performance begins at 5.00pm. A picnic dinner is served during the long interval. Second of two nights in Horsted.
Horsted, Cliveden, Garsington. By coach from Horsted to Cliveden. Cliveden’s magnificent formal gardens and woods beside the Thames have been admired for centuries. A lecture in the afternoon is followed by Don Giovanni (Mozart): Douglas Boyd (conductor) Michael Boyd (director), Garsington Opera Orchestra & Chorus. Jonathon McGovern (Don Giovanni). Dinner is served in the interval. Overnight in Marlow.
Leave when you wish. Taxis to Marlow railway station are provided.
Price – per person
Two sharing: £2,710. Single occupancy: £2,970.
Three opera tickets costing c.£705; private air-conditioned coach; hotel accommodation as described below; breakfasts, all three dinners (including one picnic dinner) with wine, water and coffee; tips for restaurant staff and drivers; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Horsted Place, Little Horsted: A fine country house hotel in a Victorian Gothic revival mansion offering very good service. (4-star). The Compleat Angler, Marlow: comfortable hotel, well-positioned beside the Thames with excellent views (4-star). Single rooms are doubles for sole use throughout.
The tour would be a struggle for anyone whose walking is impaired. There is a short walk from the coach park to the opera house. Average distance by coach per day: 35 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Altogether a wonderful few days with a real feast of fantastic music.
Martin Randall Travel certainly hit the button as far as I'm concerned with this tour. I found it magical, phenomenal, outstanding - I've run out of superlatives!