My husband, just like Julie’s husband Tom, is an opera buff. The main difference is that, unlike Tom, he isn’t a recent convert and has been a fan all his life, so, one way and another, I get to see (and hear) quite a lot of opera.
Last night we enjoyed the first night performance of Glyndebourne’s new production of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which, roughly speaking, is the story of two lovers as they struggle to rescue their women from the clutches of a Turkish harem.
Now I’m not going to attempt to write a full blooded appraisal of the music. Suffice it to say that this was beautiful and exquisitely executed by singers and orchestra alike. No, I’ve been thinking more of the production as a whole, and, I have to say, this was stunning. The buildings looked truly oriental with their arches and niches, intricate tracery and columns, colourful cushions and wide divans. The costumes were perfect – ladies in harem pants, men in belted tunics and whirling their scimitars – in short, it was all there and evoked the culture and period in which the action takes place.
And, because it was the first night, the whole production cast took a bow on stage at the end. Not a boo in the house. Just rapturous applause and appreciation of an opera which looked and sounded superb, and this, as my husband remarked, is all too rare these days.
So I woke up still thinking about Glyndebourne this morning, and I couldn’t help noting the parallels with my own foray into opera. Looking for Death opens with a dispute about different ideas for the staging of Aida – should the producer be faithful to the original concept, or should he attempt something more daring and use a setting which bears no resemblance whatsoever to this? My own view is that, on the whole, people want their opera to look and feel right, so whether it’s Entführung or Aida, radical overhauls which run counter to the overall spirit of the piece just don’t work.
By way of a footnote: unfortunately, I can’t share any photos of Entführung, but I can say that the Glyndebourne garden was also looking resplendent last night and harboured some of the glorious colours which were so much in evidence on stage. I expect Julie would have enjoyed the opera, and she would certainly have enthused about the flowers!