Jaqui's Daily Blog

Behind the Scenes at the Opera

The traffic is really heavy on the way to Lewes.


Mr B says we should have left even earlier than we did and isn’t at all comforted by my assertion that, once we make it out of Worthing, it will be plain sailing.  Or even driving.


We have picked up Val, a fellow Questers member and we are on our way to world-famous Glyndebourne for a “behind the scenes” visit. I have been looking forward to this for ages.  Regular readers will remember that Questers is one of the groups of the Worthing branch of the U3A (University of the Third Age) of which Mr B and I are enthusiastic members. Some may even recall that, when I first raised the issue of possible membership of this august organisation with Mr B, he was decidedly lukewarm as he was convinced it was some kind of spiritualist body.  Fortunately time and experience has reassured him.


Yesterday because I was otherwise engaged, he had to attend the monthly U3A Branch Meeting on his own.  He said he would sit next to our friend Delia so I made sure to ask her, in advance, if she would keep an eye on him and give him a gentle prod in the ribs if he looked as if he were dropping off to sleep during the guest speaker’s presentation. Over dinner later, as we compared notes on our respective days, he assured me that Delia had only had to use her sharp, pointy elbow twice. I shall be checking up on Delia’s version of events when I next see her.  Apparently the talk was all about de-cluttering but the only important fact that Mr B remembered was that the speaker would charge £30 an hour to help us de-clutter. I have the distinct impression that our clutter suddenly seems quite desirable to him.


However that was yesterday and this is today and we are out of Worthing and making excellent progress along the A27 towards Lewes and Glyndebourne. The sun is shining, it is a beautiful day and All Is Right With Our World.


It is nearly thirty years since I last went to Glyndebourne.  I wasn’t exactly part of the Opera Set, I have to tell you, in fact I was there three years running with hundreds of excitable school-children on a day out from lessons.  The occasion was the Kent and Sussex Schools Glyndebourne Festival – an amazing opportunity for youngsters from across both counties to have their first taste of opera. Not any opera, either, but opera at its best at beautiful Glyndebourne, no less. One year we saw Britten’s The Dream, another year it was Carmen, another year Love For Three Oranges.  Master of Ceremonies was Richard Stilgoe who cleverly made the stories come alive for the youngsters.  For lucky old me, handing the publicity, it was an unforgettable experience.


Today we are behind the scenes. We have coffee in the Old Green Room, which is a beautiful long, long room with windows looking out on the sun-lit lawns and a display case of awards won  over both long-past and recent years.  Half an hour later we are standing on the stage, looking out into the auditorium in wonder. We can see the place where the Deputy Stage Manager stands, armed with an enormous book in which the score is written, along with detailed instructions of who needs to be where, and when. Once you have done that job, our wonderful guide, Belinda, tell us, you will never, ever want to do any other job.  You have the whole production, the entire experience, an audience’s expectant pleasure quite literally at your fingertips. 


At the very back, Mr B is rapt to see a gleaming Austin Healey car which, we are told, has had pride of place in recent performances of The Marriage of Figaro.  He is only slightly disappointed to hear that the car is powered by a golf buggy rather than a three litre engine.


We see the costumes, the wigs, the amazing props.  We sit in the upper circle and gaze down at the stage where, only a few minutes ago, we were standing.   If you ever have a chance to go on a Behind the Scenes tour of Glyndebourne I heartily recommend it. Tell Belinda I sent you.


In fact, there is just one thing that niggles me. They still put on children’s performances at Glyndebourne and I am sure they are excellent – but as far as I can tell they are not in the main auditorium but in a separate, rather less special performance area.


The Festivals I remember were in the main theatre (now replaced by the stunning new building we toured today) and we tried to give the children as true a Glyndebourne experience as we could – right down to a picnic lunch in the grounds.


OK, so it was a ham sandwich, crisps and orange juice in a cardboard box rather than smoked salmon and champagne in a posh hamper.  But I am still hoping that somewhere there are Kent Kids and Sussex Kids who saw The Dream on stage at Glyndebourne and remember that it was magic...

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Latest comments

23.04 | 20:15

lovely and heartwarming - an inspiration to us all x

09.03 | 12:07

Love this story told as ever beautifully.x

10.11 | 21:31

What a super account of a special event. I loved meeting you last night and seeing your creation come together. I’m so pleased you got so much from the activity

07.09 | 13:17

I have broad shoulders x

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