Last Friday, I was lucky enough to be invited to Glyndebourne by my friend Sophie and her parents. I was invited about a week before the event, which meant only one thing: FULL BLOWN DRESS PANIC. It was a long time since I’d been to Glyndebourne: so long in fact, that my mother had dressed me that last time. But this time, the responsibility was all my own. I did some frantic Google searching, checking the Glyndebourne website and various blogs about how to dress. Most advised that while evening dress was not compulsory, it was advised.
Now, I’m one of those girls who buys things on a whim and then finds the occasion for it later. ‘Dress for the life you want, not the life you have’, someone once told me. That never meant much to me purely because I tend to wear whatever I like, and to hell with the consequences, but for once it seemed to come true. Suddenly I knew what I had to wear. Last year, in a fit of Summer madness and fabric inspired lust, I’d picked up a charming lavender, Grecian style Alberta Ferretti evening gown from Love is Boutique in Tunbridge Wells. It had been obscenely expensive originally, but I got it at a much more reasonable price; although still enough to force me to eat noodles until my next paycheck came through. It didn’t matter though, because I fell truly in love with it. Despite working in the fashion industry, it’s very rate that I feel something for a garment like that, but this was different.
Enough about the dress though! We had the most glorious weather as we headed down towards Lewes; the sun beating down through the car windows. We were well equipped with a picnic, chairs and table, but intended to go for some afternoon tea first and foremost. Quite right, I say. We wove our way through verdant gardens and wildflowers taller than me, set up our table and popped off for an absolutely corking tea. I’m a huge advocate of afternoon tea, and this was a proper one: finger sandwiches, scones, tiny cakes. Perfect! After tea, we wandered around the lake and through the impossibly beautiful grounds before heading inside to our seats.
It’s strange – I’ll happily sit down and listen to hours of Bach or Vivaldi, but I’ve always avoided opera. I suspect this is because my parents used to drag me to the opera when I was very small, and frequently used to play it around the house. I needed to find my own way to it. From the start of ‘Figaro’ I was enchanted. This ‘Figaro’ was loosely set in the sixties (perfect!) and directed by Michael Grandage (even ‘perfecter’!) I’ve loved Grandage since seeing a production of Schiller’s Don Carlos he directed, and also Ivanov with Kenneth Branagh a couple of years ago. ‘Figaro’ was a wonderful production – slick and funny and fast-paced. It’s a well known fact that I have the most appalling attention span: too much time ‘triple-screening’ with TV, my Mac and my iPhone has meant I can’t concentrate on anything, and yet the opera whizzed by. I didn’t check the time once, and was devastated when it came to an end!
All in all, it was the most glorious day. I adore the fact that this bastion of Englishness still exists, and that here is a place I can go where people still dress smartly and take afternoon tea. Glyndebourne during the Festival is a truly perfect experience, and whether I have to beg, borrow or steal a ticket next year, I shall try my best to go again. In the meantime, I’m going to put Bach on the backburner (Bach-burner?! Geddit?!) and guess what? I’m going to start listening to some opera.