CHAMPAGNE AND COUNTRY HOUSE MUSIC; (1) NIGHT & DAY (2) Manon Lescaut Glyndebourne Festival Opera Director: Graham Vick Starring: Adina Nitescu, Patrick Denniston Running Time: 4 Hrs (3) le Nozze Di Figaro Glyndebourne Festival Opera Director: Stephen Medcalf Starring: Anton Scharinger, Rosemary Joshua Running Time: 4 Hrs 40 Mins

Article excerpt


I've always liked those stories about how, in the depths of the Indian or African jungle, the British ruling class would dress for sundowners and dinner. Hedonism is a serious business, of course, and you can see that same admirable determination to enjoy oneself in an annual ritual deep in the Sussex countryside.

Only the English would think of putting an opera house miles from anywhere, in the middle of a field, and many must have been the opera-goer - laden with hampers, cool boxes and rugs; ambushed by roadworks and the English weather - who has wondered whether it was worth the bother. But still they come back, attracted often by a thirst for opera, lured sometimes by an equally intoxicating taste for champagne and country houses. Welcome to Glyndebourne.

The big new production this year is Puccini's Manon Lescaut - something of a surprise choice since it is not one of his most popular operas (it has not been seen in this country for 14 years). The plot is as simple and effective as they come: boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl back; girl dies.

But there is an added interest as the girl in question is a beautiful courtesan with a voracious appetite for money and men.

This mixture of titillation and bathos can seem a bit out of date now, but you can hear Puccini's almost cinematic gift for bringing every detail of the dramatic picture to life in the music. One of the best features of this production is the way director Graham Vick choreographs the crowd scenes to mirror this shifting canvas - sometimes treating them en bloc like a Broadway chorus, sometimes giving each an individual character. …