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Glyndebourne Watch

On May 19, the Summer 2005 season opened at the Glyndebourne Festival, with Rossini's La Cenerentola. In an article by Stephen Moss ('Glyndebourne is much more honest than Covent Garden', May 9) for The Guardian, director Peter Hall and conductor Vladimir Jurowski (music director at Glyndebourne since 2001) spoke about their collaboration on the Rossini opera and, even more interesting, what working at Glyndebourne is like:

Hall argues that at Glyndebourne, unlike at most opera houses, a partnership of equals is possible. "Apart from Bayreuth," he says, "it's the only opera house in the world where the director is treated as seriously as the conductor. In all other houses in my experience, the conductor is king." [...]

"I think this is a much more honest opera house now than Covent Garden. I just went to see Rheingold and paid £175 for my ticket. That's a disgrace. This is our national subsidised opera. They should have double the subsidy and cheaper prices. Here, it's a private enterprise and people pay what it needs to charge, but no one's making money out of it. The artists work here for less than they normally get because the conditions are the best." Hall evidently adores the artist-friendly conditions, but he does allow himself one jibe. "There is a certain kind of Rolls-Royce smugness about Glyndebourne. All the staff have it. It makes me ratty now and again, and I say, 'Pull your finger out and do it quickly; don't do it in Glyndebourne time, do it fast.' But they're allowed that smugness. After all, where else do you rehearse in the set on the first day, have sufficient time to do the job properly, and have that number of orchestral rehearsals? Most opera houses are factories whose object in life is to chuck on as many operas as possible and get away with it."

Jurowski, who is about to go to a casting meeting while Hall consumes a fruit salad, can finally get a word in. "I take Glyndebourne's traditions as part of the deal," he says. "It's like a masquerade. The audience wearing black tie is no different from us as musicians dressing up in tails in the pit, which does not always suit the music. I don't think Wozzeck should be played in white tie and tails. The whole machinery of music and theatre-making has aged enormously since it was invented and we should think, without getting hysterical about it, how to improve it. Some aspects not only of Glyndebourne but of any opera theatre are old-fashioned; it is a slightly rigid tradition but what is more important is the reaction we artists can cause in the audience. If people leave Glyndebourne with a sense of emotional shock or with some questions which were raised during the performance, we can consider ourselves happy."
According to the review (Tempestuous tale goes down a storm, May 21) by Andrew Clark for the London Financial Times, despite the traffic jams and terrible weather, the Rossini was "one of the best nights Glyndebourne has enjoyed in many a year. [...] After so many dispiriting Mozart productions at Glyndebourne in recent years, it was good to find the privately run Sussex opera house returning to Rossini and scoring a triumph." All in all, it looks like a nice season at Glyndebourne. I find three productions possibly very interesting: Smetana's The Bartered Bride (a revival of the 1999 production by Nikolaus Lehnhoff), Handel's Giulio Cesare (with William Christie, most days, leading the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, David McVicar directing, and Sarah Connolly singing the title role), and Jonathan Dove's Flight (a 1998 Glyndebourne commission, which takes place in an airport lounge and is about a group of passengers whose plane has been delayed by a storm, with Richard Jones directing).

The Glyndebourne Magic Flute does not fare so well, in the review by Warwick Thompson, Glyndebourne's 'Magic Flute' Could Use a Little Fairy Dust (Bloomberg News, May 23).

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