Four things put me off opera :
1) most operas are sung in German, French or Italian and I find it hard to follow the super-titles and the stage;
2) that the cast can sing but are wooden actors;
3) that those who really like opera tend to be obsessives;
4) the corporates that have adopted it as part of high-end entertaining.
One factor I have not mentioned which does put off many is the cost. I go so rarely that I do not begrudge the cost and recognise the productions are expensive to mount.
Every year around this time I invite an old friend of 45 years vintage to Glyndebourne. She leads a hard life, stoically looking after her grandchildren with her single parent daughter and working for £8 per hour at a care home. Glyndebourne is her holiday. A friend of mine summed up Glynebourne brilliantly last week: “Glyndebourne works” – like a Rolls Royce Phantom, every moving part functions to deliver a pleasurable experience. My friend favours the picnic so this year I ordered same through Glyndbourne. Polly, currently hiking high in the Dolomites, was not at hand to attend to this. The day before I was called by the catering office: “Mr Tickler, you really do not need a butler for two people” How many caterers would do that to save me £50?
We presented ourselves at the picnic office and a charming young lady escorted us to a idyllic spot by the lake to set up our table and explained the picnic. I uncorked the Taittinger and as we sat by the lake we had that sublime feeling that we could not be in a more pleasant place in the world than Glynebourne on a warm summer’s evening.
Not being a opera buff I am not qualified to provide a deep critique of the opera though lack of knowledge has never prevented me from offering my view. The story is of Konstanze (betrothed to Belmonte), her maid Blonde and servant Perrillo shipwrecked on Turkey and captured by Pasha Selim who falls in love with Kostanze. By subterfuge her betrothed is infiltrated into the palace. Their escape is discovered by the Pasha’ s steward Osmin but the Pasha grants them their freedom.
It does not have one recognisable aria which is why it is less well known than Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Cosi Fan Tutte but the clash of civilisations is as integral today as it was when first performed in 1782. I have criticised the acting but 5 of the cast – Konstaze, the Pasha and above all the servants Pedrillo, Osrim and Blonde were animated . The spirited Blonde reminded me of Polly. The sets and orchestration were first class but you expect that as Glyndebourne works.