Thursday, 5 June 2014

Garsington Opera's 25th Anniversary : past unites with future

Garsington Opera's 25th anniversary season starts Friday - some seats still available,. But there's a lot more to the season than the three operas on offer. Douglas Boyd, Artistic Director, speaks about this year's programme and about thrilling new developments that could launch Garsington Opera into the next 25 years at the forefront of British country house opera. Read the interview HERE IN Opera Today for more.  

 The late Leonard Ingrams founded Garsington Opera in 1989 in his own home, Garsington Manor. In 2011, the festival moved to Wormsley Park, Mark Getty's estate in the Chiltern Hills. The larger and even more spectacular setting has great potential. The award winning pavilion is now permanent, and its backstage area has been expanded. Garsington Opera's own orchesstra will continue to produce chamber-scale specialist work - Garsington Opera is the foremost house for Rossini rarities  in the UK - but the facilities now cater fro larger scale orchestras and a wider repertoire.

Furthermore, Garsington Opera will be able to create a new niche through which opera, chamber and orchestral music can be heard together with literature and discussions on broader issues. In 1915, Lady Ottoline Morell bought Garsington Manor as a retreat from her estate at Morrell Park in Oxford. Her salon attracted the more adventurous artistic minds of her era - she knew TS Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Bertrand Russell and many others.  At right a photo showing her on the lawn at Garsington with Aldous Huxley, Lytton Strachey, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell. Siegfried Sassoon, the war poet, stayed at Garsington Manor while recuperating from the Somme.

This year, Garsington Opera is holding a weekend "Peace in our time?" (note the question mark). Discussions, concert performances, chamber music, masterclasses, cricket matches and poetry readings. By remarkable coincidence, two previously unpublished poems by Siegfried Sassoon will be read in public for the first time. One poem, "Atrocities", was suppressed during war time, but the other is an ode to Beethoven: the composer who perhaps more than others deals with ideas of oppression, war, resistance and hope through brotherhood. Celebrated in a poem by Siegfried Sassoon, who knew war and injustice, and whose poetry stimulated a whole new artistic aesthetic. (Ivor Gurney lived in High Wycombe down the road from Wormsley, and Wilfred Owen lived near Henley-on-Thames)  Perfect dovetail : Garsington Opera's past and its future.

photo of the Garsington Opera Pavilion at Wormlsey by Christopher Jonas

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