One week. Three Operas
It’s the Glyndebourne Tour 2019
Glyndebourne is a state of the art opera house tucked away in the Sussex countryside.
Founded in 1934, the Glyndebourne Festival is held every summer, and it’s an opera season with a special twist – a 90 minute interval! All that surplus time allows visitors to enjoy dinner in a restaurant or a picnic in their gardens. Sounds fancy huh?
And they are fancy. Apparently these events are where people really get into the opera mood, taking great effort with their dress (I’m thinking proper evening gowns, opera gloves, that kinda get-up SNAZZY! 😍).
But opera isn’t restricted to that extreme snazzamatazz.
Glyndebourne operas are also accessible. The Glyndebourne tour takes productions on the road to visit venues around the UK and some are even beamed into cinemas across the country.
Their aim is not only bringing the opera to more convenient locations but also in a more relaxed setting. The proper formal dress is definitely not mandatory (but… but… who dares to tell you not to be snazzy? Hell, do it anyways).
For the 2019 tour there are only five venues lucky enough to host Glyndebourne operas and one of those is Milton Keynes Theatre. Woo! Nice one MK.
This week sees them here performing three different productions L’elisir d’amore, Rigoletto and Rinaldo.
Synopsis: Adina, a wealthy girl is worshiped in her local small town. Simple country boy Nemorino is madly in love with her but she is swept off her feet by the dashing Belcore. When a travelling doctor arrives, Nemorino puts all his faith (and his money) into a love potion to win the girl of his dreams. Hilarities follow. Donizetti’s rom-com opera is sweet, easy to follow, amusing and best of all, has a happy ending.
It’s always exciting for me to enter Milton Keynes Theatre and see the orchestra pit open.
If you’ve visited before, a good half dozen or more rows of seats are taken out to open up the pit, it’s huge! But best of all, to hear the live orchestra playing is just magical.
LouBou Trivia: Did you know I am a grade 8 flautist? I played a lot in my youth including for the Northants County Bands, so I get extra, extra excited when I see a full orchestra getting some spotlight.
I found L’elisir d’amore easy to watch and had no problem following the plot.
There are subtitles above the stage if you’re worried you won’t have a clue what’s going on.
It’s a comical love story, breezy, no real intenseness and no tragedy! (Tragedy might be what you’d usually expect of an opera). It’s quite silly in places too. A fun watch with lovely music that was composed by Italian composer, Donizetti.
Synopsis: It’s a bit beefy but here goes my attempt.
Rigoletto is a jester to a Hollywood playboy-esque Duke.
A Duke who takes whatever woman he fancies, from whoever without any care in the world.
When a man the Duke wrongs attempts justice, Rigoletto’s cruel wit and malice defending the Duke results in him and the Duke getting cursed.
Rigoletto meets an assassin called Sparafucile and compares the similarities of the two, one kills with a dagger, one with his tongue.
In his life away from the Duke, we learn Rigoletto has a daughter, Gilda, who he shields from the world. He doesn’t even tell his daughter his real name and keeps her away from the world and the womanising Duke. Little does he know the Duke has already unknowingly met his daughter at church and is pursuing her.
The Duke connives his way near to Rigoletto’s daughter and romances her but is not truthful about who he is.
The court around the Duke believe Gilda is Rigoletto’s mistress and abduct her. The Duke realises who Gilda is and is ecstatic that she is able to be under his power and whips her away to his room.
Rigoletto arrives and hears the tale of the abductee from the courters and realises it’s his Gilda and the curse is coming true. Enraged he tries to reach her but is held back until she emerges and confesses everything to her dad, who tells her truthfully who the Duke is but he cannot sway her love.
Rigoletto and Gilda overhear the Duke making advances on Sparafucile’s sister, proving his unfaithful nature but Gilda is still unable to give up on her love for him.
Rigoletto orders Gilda to leave the city and plots his revenge on the Duke by paying Sparafucile to kill him.
Sparafucile’s sister begs her brother to spare him as she also believes herself in love and Sparafucile agrees that if someone else stumbles in before midnight, they will take his place.
Gilda overhears and in selfless act of love to save the Duke from death, she enters Sparafucile’s and gets stabbed.
Rigoletto arrives to dispose of the Duke’s body but as he is moving it he hears the Duke singing from above, realising in horror that the body must be someone else, he opens the sacks and sees his daughter who is dying.
Rigoletto realises the curse has won.
This Glyndebourne production of Rigoletto is reimagining, with the story set in 1930s film/hollywood style surroundings. It was quite hard to keep up with but generally enjoyable and at times, dark and dramatic. The song La donna è mobile that the Duke sings is instantly recognisable but when you realise the lyrics and its place in the story, it’s quite a nasty old song!
The story seems complex and that’s because it is. The opera is based on a book by Victor Hugo who also wrote Les Misérables, so I’m totes convinced complex stories are in his nature.
The music alone (by Verdi) is a reason not to miss this, even if you don’t fully understand the story!
This is set during the first crusade. In school Rinaldo is in love with Goffredo’s daughter Almirena. Goffredo is leading the battle of the Christian crusader army in the siege of Jerusalem.
The opposition forces led by Argante who has an evil sorceress Queen Armida as his mistress. She tells Argante that to win he must deprive the Christian’s support of Rinaldo. She offers her assistance in making it happen.
As Rinaldo and Almirena get together, Armida and her forces attack them and abduct Almirena.
Rinaldo declares he will rescue Almirena but maybe they need the help of the Christian Magician.
Struggling to find the magician, a boat appears to Rinaldo, filled with beautiful women who promise to find Almirena. To his friends dismay, Rinaldo goes with them and disappears.
Almirena is captive and being guarded by Argante, he tells her that he has fallen in love with her and will defy Armida and release her if Almirena returns his love. She will not.
Rinaldo now also a captive is with Armida, she finds herself falling in love with Rinaldo and attempts to seduce him, even pretending to be Almirena but he is not fooled and rejects her.
Argante appears and mistakes Armida for the real Almirena and reaffirms his love for her but its’ really Armida and she vows vengeance for his betrayal.
Goffredo and Eustazio finally find the Christian Magician who gives them the protection they need to enter Armida’s lair.
Armida is about to kill Almirena (with Rinaldo and Argante helplessly looking on) when Goffredo and Eustazio arrive to save them.
Troops arrive and battles start. The Christian crusaders are victorious and Rinaldo and Almirena are together again.
The defeated Armida and Argente are forgiven and they join together in reconciliation.
Handel’s opera is an intense story of war, love and redemption and in this rendition by Glyndebourne it’s set in a school where Rinaldo is a student.
This production has everything. It’s Harry Potter-like, it’s roaringly funny, sexy, sweet, touching and awkward. Sounds pretty accurate for time as a student, right?
The Christian crusaders are the male students and the queen Armida is lead by the female students.
There are hilarious moments of them fighting, use of bicycles, armoury on top of their school uniforms which make this an extremely fun opera to watch.
I think this is my favourite opera yet!
Glyndebourne Tour 2019 is at Milton Keynes Theatre 12 – 16 November 2019.
For full transparency, tickets to the shows were kindly gifted to me from Milton Keynes Theatre.