FashionBite was thrilled to receive an invite to the Glyndebourne Opera Festival, famed for its champagne picnics and picturesque grounds as much as its performances. After tackling the perennial question of what to wear, we donned our finest gowns and made our way to Lewes, East Sussex for a night of spellbinding entertainment.
Arriving at the spectacular Glyndebourne country house, we were greeted by glorious sunshine and an impromptu fashion parade as guests began to arrive in their evening wear. Cutting edge fashion has been at the centre of the Glyndebourne ethos since it opened in May 1934, with ‘incorrect’ dress causing much controversy.
After setting up a picnic table in a sun-drenched corner of the properties’ extensive grounds, it was time for the Ravel Double Bill to begin. Rather reluctantly, we left our spot to take our seats, where it soon became clear we were in for a fabulous evening. The grandeur of the opera house is indicative of the opera’s attention to detail, boasting excellent acoustics and beautifully detailed interiors.
The first of two one-act operas by Maurice Ravel, “L’Heure Espagnole” rolled into action to rapturous applause. This clever conceit is set in the house of a clockmaker, comparing the wound-up mechanism of a clock with the erotic frustration that can plague flesh-and-blood humans. The gorgeous Concepción must find a way to stave off her various admirers, concealing them from her husband via a series of increasingly ridiculous plans. Delightfully silly, the opera’s juxtaposition of metronomic precision and wanton Latin passion is the driving force of this short, colourful piece.
The end of L’heure espagnole” signalled the interval, a moment for champagne quaffing and a spot of dinner. After enjoying a very civilised meal in the grounds, we returned to our seats in the auditorium as opera converts, excited to see what the second half had in store.
“L’enfant et les sortilèges” promised a comical child’s-eye view of the world, exposing a wicked young boy in the midst of a temper tantrum to the consequences of his actions. Inanimate objects come to life when the boy, fed up with doing his homework, rips down the wallpaper and tears his work to shreds. All the things that have been damaged by him begin to voice their objections: a broken cup and teapot, a shepherd and shepherdess from the wallpaper he ripped, a battered armchair and the princess from the torn pages of a story book.
Animals and plants from the garden pipe up to teach the child a lesson, as Ravel’s music reaches a fierce climax. He is finally redeemed by his unexpected kindness to an injured squirrel, bringing the opera to a touching conclusion as the objects forgive him. The fabulous costumes and vocal power of the performers paired with the unusual storyline made for a magical combination – this was our favourite opera by far.
Adjourning to the grounds once more, FashionBite settled down for drinks under the stars, to the backdrop of bleating sheep and guest’s content chatter. The perfect end to a perfect evening, we can’t wait to go back next year – if you thought opera was dull, think again.
Photographs by Simon Annand and Leigh Simpson