25 May 2014

Sparkling Eugene Onegin at Glyndebourne

The Gods of Glyndebourne have not been kind to me this year. Despite offering a wide range of possible dates for each of the six operas I only got tickets for four of them and three of those are close together in August. The other was in May.

The Gods of Weather looked to be unhelpful too and the day before my first trip to Glyndebourne in the new season it rained heavily making a picnic on the grass look unlikely.

So we decided to play safe and chose to go to the marquee thus avoiding any of the fights for seats in the garden or benches by the opera house. Besides, the marquee has tables and chairs (which I do not) and is next to the garden so it still encourages the strolling that is part of any visit to Glyndebourne.

The first glass of champagne duly quaffed we set off to explore the gardens. The garden changes every year and so has to be explored in some detail on the first visit.

There were surprisingly few statues in the gardens and none in the main picnic areas. At least the old favourites were there including this diver. This is a statue that I would love to have myself if I had the money, and a lake.

The biggest change that I noticed was in the large borders along the terrace by the house. There had been cut right back and while being far from bare they were a mere shadow of their former exuberant selves. I suspect that they will have grown back if not by the end of this season then certainly by the start of the next and they will be back with a bit more order.

For various reasons, but mostly to keep the booking simple, I only applied for seats in the centre block of the Upper Circle.

I think that these are the best value seats in the house (standing is probably the best value) and my seat in the second row from the very back (F14) cost me £110 and gave me this perfectly fine view.

I had never seen any version of Eugene Onegin before but I did know the story and, obviously, I was familiar with much of Tchaikovsky's music, especially the ballet scores. So I settled down in my comfy chair and prepared to be entertained.

The story of Eugene Onegin is simple and I often like operas like that. Nothing at all happens in Tristan und Isolde in four hours and it is beautiful.

The simplicity of the story was matched by the simplicity of the staging with monochrome rooms (in what looked like builders' favourite colour, Magnolia) and that let plenty of space for the music and singing, which is just how I like it.

This was not a ballet, though there was some dancing in it, and so the music was much less strident than I was used to from Tchaikovsky. It was still Tchaikovsky though and I thought that the music was beautiful and suitably moody. The singing was excellent as always at Glyndebourne and that is the main reason that I go there.

Eugene Onegin was a simple story beautifully told in a sparkling production.

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