How English and how amazing too to see such a cutting edge production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the middle of a damp but oh so verdant field. Umbrellas mushroomed along with one mink coat, one fur wrap, gold sandals, the odd glint of a diamond, wellies, countless raincoats and a swarm of black bow-ties, usually accessorising silver hair. Tented pavilions beckoned.
This was Garsington, a private opera company that started up in 1989 and, since last year, has been hosted at Mark (son of Jean-Paul) Getty’s fabulous wooded estate in Buckinghamshire. All very swish, cultured and full of cut-glass accents and bonhomie.
So while yet another English banking scandal explodes and the Eurozone implodes, here was a fine gathering of those who are immune, complete with a fleet of high-end cars (Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar dominated) and a ‘chauffeurs’ tent. The concert hall structure itself is spectacular, an almost surreally high-tech building of steel and glass that can be dismantled when the short (one month) season is over. Of course bubbly flowed throughout, even on the set – with expert brand-placement by Veuve Cliquot & its stand-out orange label. Very on trend too.
We rolled in in our rather battered Peugeot just in time to partake of the last tour to the walled garden – one of Wormsley Estate’s sights, though normally invisible to lesser mortals. Beauty, symmetry, heavy summer blooms, collapsing stems, emerald lawns and an abundant veggie garden all combined perfectly, culminating in yet another glimpse of that orange label. Best of all was the 1962 coach that ferried the well-heeled punters back and forth – taking me back to my distant youth. There’s something so deliciously vintage about green and cream livery – plus ash-trays built into the seats.
Back in opera territory, Brora tartan picnic rugs were for hire, but on this soggy summer night most people headed for the picnic tents where, during the generous interval, they unpacked foodie bounty from their hampers with the aid of special porters). Possibly more intelligent in view of the weather, though far less English in spirit, was to sit comfortably and enjoy a good feed in the restaurant marquees.
But who cares? The production was superlative with top notch artists and a cutting edge set design. I’m normally no opera buff, but with this contemporary take (they even snorted lines of coke in a scene of Don Giovanni’s general debauchment), costumes and environment, I was completely conquered. At £100 ish a ticket plus dinner or picnic, it doesn’t seem a bad deal either for such a spectacle – rain or not. Glyndebourne, eat your heart out.