Back in 1984, Peter Hall directed a production of Cosi Fan Tutte at Glyndebourne. I was in the chamber choir at the time at my school. My soprano voice was yet to plummet to profundo. And our music teacher had connections. I was ten. I still remember it well though. Maybe it was a formative experience. I know that numbers were limited and I won my place. We lucky few went to Glyndebourne. And we went early for a workshop with the cast.
I know from work now that part of the job as an actor is to do workshops for … people. Evidently it was the same back then at Glyndebourne for the singers. Periodically the producer just drops it on you, wherever you might be in the run: “You don’t have to. But we kind of need two actors to do a workshop for…” Old people. Kids. Prisons. Local community. A fundraiser. A school. Blind people. School children. All of your above and more. “You don’t need to know anything more than you know. You’re not a teacher. It’s a masterclass.” I’m used to doing them now. I enjoy them now as they’re a handy frame to examine my craft. But they’re often divisive in the cast. Some actors just hate it.
Jane Berbie ran ours, with J Patrick Raftery. I’ve just googled them. I can’t remember much but I know it was Despina and the lover that sings “Cosi Fan Tutte”. I was ten. I can’t be expected to remember much more than that. I bonded with Ryland though. Even then I knew that performance was my work. He saw that too and encouraged me God help me. I didn’t go into opera though after my dropping balls took it off the table. I’ve had to make to with the less musical forms of performance that have been alternatively wonderful and hideous to me for decades.
Today I went back to Glyndebourne and watched the same opera, 37 years later aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
Lou got tickets in a box through her work. No workshop first though. We got to sit in the gardens. We had a picnic.
What a beautiful place, and what delightful gardens. Very interesting to go back and realise that the baritone part Raftery mentored me in aged ten – (he got me to sing the Cosi Fan Tutte response) – that part would’ve been my part had I pursued the opera. The character lead. Good eye.
It’s a whole experience. They pick you up in a coach at Lewes. Then you have a picnic in the gorgeous grounds. Our picnic was entirely provided by Lou who knows the score by now having worked there on and off for ages in various capacities. In a sliding door, had I not lost understanding of my dropped voice for 20 years, she might have been my dresser. As it is thankfully we had way more fun. We got to have a proper audience watchy experience worth quite a lot of money. It’s nice to see it from the other side. And she also helped me with my Bottom.
We lay there in the gaps drinking in the atmosphere and going through lines. I feel a lot better now having done them out loud a few times to somebody reading.
A wonderful chance to sit and watch these masterful singers work through a very light opera for the entertainment of surprisingly few human beings. It was something of an open dress, so hopefully not representative in terms of audience figures, although I know theatres are still mightily restricted with numbers despite football stadiums and Wimbledon etc etc ugh. It felt a true privilege to be one of the few. If I was rich and lived in Sussex I’d be there all the time. I’m sure I could write for ages about the difference between operatic movement and theatrical movement. But much as my geek brain has been exploding that topic, my heart just wants to say how lovely it was to go back to Glyndebourne a lifetime later and find out who I am now in that context.