- December 17, 2019
What better way to start the festive season than a concert of Christmas songs, carols and luscious music, and what better place than Glyndebourne. Conducted by Aiden Oliver who peppered the evening with musical anecdotes, the Festival Chorus and touring orchestra more than rose to the occasion.
The afternoon started with the overture from Engelbert Humperdink’s Hansel & Gretel, a sweeping delight that led easily into Handel and then Gerald Finzi. The first half, entitled in Terra Pax, continued with the Bell Chorus from Pagliacci which certainly if not seasonally correct had a seasonal feel to it.
Next the beautiful Sandman’s Song and Evening Prayer, again from Hansel & Gretel and beautifully delivered by Carrie-Anne Williams and then the sweet and angelic perfection of the Glyndebourne youth Opera. This ensemble of young voices is as fine as any cathedral choir, no finer, and their voices were enough to bring a tear to the eye.
Mopping them discreetly away it was time for a rousing piece to send us out into the cool night air for the interval and Verdi’s Anvil Chorus did the job perfectly.
The second half entitled Have Yourself A Merry Glyndebourne Christmas opened with the delight of Eric Coates’ The Merry Maker’s Overture, as fine a piece of popular English music as one might hope for and one that the orchestra clearly enjoyed playing. Then it was time for we the audience to get involved, something we were invited o do several times, at first with carols and finally with popular Christmas songs. In between we were given Shepherd’s Farewell by Berlioz and the simply stunning Bogoroditse Dyevo by Rachmaninov which saw the chorus at their very best. The mood was then lightened by a delightful calypso carol before we all joined in with the delicious “Hollywood” (the conductor’s word) arrangements of some popular Christmas songs.
This exercise in Christmas cheer sees the opera house in a very approachable light but never at the expense of the internationally acclaimed standards that they have long held. But for anyone wishing to treat those close to them to the very best of seasonal music and cheer there is no better way and for Glyndebourne they must surely be introducing new audiences both young and not so young to their fabulous home and repertoire.
Finally a word about the Glyndebourne Youth Opera. I have been a fan for many years now and I am never disappointed by the quality of this group of exquisite voices, too many to name but collectively I raise my hat to them one and all.