Have you ever seen an opera? I can thoroughly recommend it. It’s like a good play but with great music too. The music helps to bring out the emotional highs and lows of each character. You can sit back and enjoy the scenery and the oh so clever props and costumes.
You may think that it’s highbrow but the plots tend to be more straightforward than many modern plays and still deal with the essential themes of life, such as love, fidelity, hope, despair, selfishness and revenge. So, it’s not that you won’t be able to follow the plot. In any case, the programme always has a little precis.
Opera is often sung in the language it was composed in, frequently Italian or German, which again, may make you think it’s too complicated if you are not a fluent linguist. But in every modern opera house there are supertitles above the stage, which translate the words being sung into English, phrase by phrase. No problem there then.
Tickets can be rather pricey but if you are prepared to sit further back, to stand or lean for the performance, then a seat can be yours for a mere £20 or so. So what’s not to like?
Last week we went to an opera experience which was memorable on all fronts. We arrived early and this is what we found. Picnic hamper; check. Table laid with white cloth; check. Beautiful landscaped gardens with lake and bridge; check. Husband, brother-in-law and his wife; check. We had gathered to celebrate the birthdays of the two brothers, conveniently only 10 days apart. The gardens were filling up with chaps dressed in black tie and women in fancy dresses long and short. Glyndebourne has a reputation for being a very individual, quintessentially English venue for opera. And it lives up to its reputation.
What do you think we did first having found our allotted table in the grounds? We found a cup of tea that’s what! How much more English can you get? Although my American sister-in-law did have coffee… We raided the picnic hamper for plates and cutlery and cut into the birthday cake I had brought along. We sat in the sunshine, watching the procession of different dresses and evening wear parade through the gardens. There were all sorts, from a short velvet dress, a halter neck long dress with a train, loose dresses, fitted dresses or even trousers, with a jacket, wrap or stole for extra warmth. The men rang the changes from a straight dinner suit by wearing a kilt, adding a cummerbund, white jacket or coloured bow tie. In view of the warm weather there were quite a few panama type hats in circulation too.
The tradition at Glyndebourne is to have one long interval between the acts and give everyone time to eat at one of the restaurants or picnic in the grounds. You can buy their picnic or take your own. It’s all super-organised, there’s lots of information on line to help you plan what to do. Now I love going to the opera but you do usually have to eat really early beforehand and then you’re a bit hungry again afterwards. So an opera which stops especially so that you can have some supper, is right up my street.
We had ordered a picnic and after the first act, it was waiting for us in a cool bag beside our table on the lawn. We toasted the birthday chaps and then enjoyed our quiche and salad. The description was more flowery than that but you get what I mean. We were so lucky to have good weather and it was magical to eat outside in such beautiful surroundings as the sun went down. Mmmm, I had been wondering what else I might like. But the picnic providers had already anticipated my every need and provided coffee and a chocolate before we went back in to enjoy the second half.
Which opera did we see? It was The Barber of Seville by Rossini, full of misunderstandings which are resolved, so that the course of love runs true, in time-honoured fashion. The cast and splendid orchestra were top quality. The scenery was carefully chosen to evoke southern Spain and Rossini’s music was lively and demanded my attention from the first to the last note.
If you decide to try out an opera, not all come with picnic facilities. But don’t let that put you off. I dare you to try one.