It might not be the best time of year for a picnic but Glyndebourne is open this December with its seasonal concert on weekend afternoons. There are just two left (16 and 17 December – returns only) and it’s a Christmas concert full of wit, festive delights and – not unexpectedly – some very fine music.
It’s not a conventional Christmas concert, though, of carols (though there are some in the second half and, indeed, some audience participation). Instead, the first half is almost entirely operatic and includes two tiny tasters of what is to come in the summer season, 2024: the “Vilja” song from Lehar’s The Merry Widow (beautifully sung by Inguna Morozova from the Glyndebourne Chorus) and the Toreador March and Chorus from Carmen. This was properly rousing and sung enthusiastically by the Glyndebourne Chorus, joined for this (and throughout the second half) by the delightful Glyndebourne Youth Opera.
From the offset, conductor Aidan Oliver promised operatic brilliance alongside plenty of fun and it certainly looked festive with a screen of falling snow over the Sussex hills, a huge rising moon past which (at the very end) flew Santa’s sleigh. The opener was the Overture from The Marriage of Figaro – joyfully played at pace by the Glyndebourne Sinfonia, clearly enjoying themselves immensely, especially the brass players in Bugler’s Holiday which was the opener for Part Two – and it closed with Borodin’s glorious “Polovtsian Dances” from his opera, Prince Igor.
After the interval (with plenty of fizz and mulled wine) the second half was more conventional with the two choirs singing the more difficult lesser known carols (John Gardner’s lovely Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day and El burrito sabanero, Hugo Blanco’s charming song about a donkey determined to get to Bethlehem) and the audience joining in with the favourites (Good King Wenceslas, Joy to the World, God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen). Aidan Oliver even taught us a new one, a spiritual arranged by Stephen Doughty, Mary Had a Baby.
What a wonderfully quirky take on the Christmas concert! There are, unfortunately, only returns available for the remaining two next weekend but there are tickets still for Haydn’s The Creation on 15 December. In the meantime, put March 2024 in your diary when booking opens for next year’s season – Carmen, The Magic Flute, The Merry Widow, Giulio Cesare, Tristan und Isolde.
For more information, and the chance for returns – and for details of the 2024 season, please visit www.glyndebourne.com.
Photos by Richard Hubert Smith