JUST off the M40 in Buckinghamshire, the Wormsley Estate, home to Garsington Opera, looked lush and magnificent on a somewhat dull summer evening. A golf buggy transported us the short distance from the car park to the tented box office and shop, next to the picnic teepees.
I have to say I have never been to any event quite so posh. The dress code is black tie, and as it was a little chilly I wore smart black trousers but most ladies were in dresses (with a preponderance of velvet and sensible heels) and my daughter, in a short glitzy dress, attracted a few raised eyebrows.
We took our seats in the spectacular pavilion and the opera started promptly at 5.45pm. With a simple set on the spacious stage, the opera is a doomed love story with music by Rossini. It tells the story of a Venetian city invaded by Turks under the Sultan, Maometto.
This production by Edward Dick is full of lust, passion and rage set against a backdrop of carnage and bloodshed. Sung in Italian, a screen above the stage has English surtitles which makes this somewhat complicated opera so much easier to follow.
The end of Act One sees a distraught father (Erisso — played by Paul Nilon) rejecting his daughter Anna (Sian Davies) because of her lover Maometto — whom she thought was someone else!
The interval of 85 minutes is time to dine, with several options available including the airy picnic teepees (where, for a fee, you can bring your own picnic or pre-order one) and a pre-booked three-course dinner courtesy of Jamie Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts overlooking the cricket ground.
Act Two was as emotionally charged with the powerful performances continuing from Maometto (Darren Jeffery) and Caitlin Hulcup taking the male role of Calbo, the other love interest.
This was a truly magical evening and highly recommended. Garsington Opera runs for a short summer season but is opera of the highest quality in exquisite surroundings.
Visit the website www.garsingtonopera.org for details and to buy tickets.