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Hissing Lawns and Soaring Voices

Think of our favourite, quintessentially English summer pastimes. Picnics, strolls in the great gardens and the enjoyment of art and opera in elegant settings are likely to be high on the list.

It’s for this reason that I believe the Glyndebourne season has reached the heights of popularity that it has, over recent years. Surrey residents have been more fortunate than most in having such a wonderful cultural resource virtually on their doorsteps. Set in the folds of the charming Sussex Downs outside the town of Lewes, the Glyndebourne estate is an exceptional experience waiting to be savoured. As our contributor, Joyce Henderson says, it’s an experience everyone should have at least once in their life.

Despite the myriad of other cultural interests, Glyndebourne first and foremost, offers great opera, produced and performed by the finest talents in the genre. Although the 2013 festival started in May there is still the opportunity to see all the operas that have been running so far, in July and August: Mozart’s Le Nozze do Figaro, Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie, Verdi’s Falstaff and Adriane auf Naxos, by Richard Strauss. July sees the first performances of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale and August brings the eagerly-awaited production of Billy Budd, which will mark the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth. Premiered in 1951, Billy Budd was one a series of sea-inspired tales created by the English composer, who was born and lived his life on the Suffolk coast. Britten’s untimely, early death in 1976 robbed England of one of its finest composers and Britten’s sea operas tell us much about the disturbed emotions of this complex man, often through moving and memorable music.

But Glyndebourne is not about emotional turmoil; it’s about enjoying the unique ambiance and taking the uplifting experience home with you. For Surrey T&L readers this is relatively easily done. And remember, if you can’t get along to Glyndebourne itself, the company will be taking opera out on tour, after the festival is over, including a visit to Woking from 29 October to 2 November. Look out for a T&L competition to win tickets to a Woking performance, nearer the time.

Chris Wood is resident composer with Guest House Opera and editor of Epsom, Sutton and Cheam Time & Leisure.