Glyndebourne Sinfonia, Chorus, and Youth Opera. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

In the heart of the Sussex countryside lies a venue with an international reputation, an opera house that in the summer attracts huge audiences for the festival season. And as autumn shifts into winter the touring season offers opportunities for people to enjoy a selection of operas from the repertoire at very affordable ticket prices.

In addition the company, the Glyndebourne Sinfonia and Glyndebourne chorus present a season of concerts. This year we were given The Messiah and The Creation, beautiful works, beautifully played and sung. Glyndebourne in the summer is spectacularly beautiful but in the fading light of a winter’s evening it has a certain magic, even in the drizzle.

And how it drizzled last night, not quite the magic of last years snow that kept many stranded in the long bar for hours drinking mulled wine and enjoying an impromptu sing-along!

But the rain did not detract, the lights twinkled on the wet leaves, the mulled wine warmed and before long we were all seated and ready for the final offering of the year, the Christmas concert.

Now it may seem strange to have spent so much time and space talking about all this before even touching on the music, after all surely Glyndebourne is all about the music. Well yes it is, but it is also about the experience, an experience that was once perceived as being only available to to rich and the privileged. Not true, at this time of the year this gem is available to all for prices that compare very favourably with both local and west end theatre prices. You may be too late for this season but mark it in your diaries to book early for 2024!

So finally on to the music. The Christmas concert is a delight, not unlike a box of chocolates with delights for all tastes, sugary confections balanced by darker truffles of delight. In the first half we are gifted Mozart’s overture to The Marriage Of Figaro, sparkling stuff to wet the appetite. Next all the pomp and splendour of Haydn’s Te Deum No2 in C, commissioned we are told by Empress Marie Thérèse. Chorus Director and conductor for the evening is Aidan Oliver and a fine job he does of introducing the music and dropping in witty anecdotes along the way. In next year’s festival season we will be treated to a new production of Frank Lehar’s The Merry Widow, so it was lovely to hear Inguna Morozova sing Vilja Song, something so familiar to all.

Next the thundering romp that is the march from Carmen, big, bold and again familiar.

Soloist Jade Moffat. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

One of the real delights of this seasonal offering is hearing the Glyndebourne Youth Chorus and what better than the Sandman’s Song and Evening Prayer from Humperdink’s Hansel and Gretel, a favourite of mine and here delivered with such delicacy. Mezzo-Soprano Jade Moffat singing the Sandman with gentle power, delicious!

Part one finished with the Polovtsian Dances from Borodin’s unfinished opera Prince Igor, strident stuff that showcased the sinfonia at the most vibrant best.

After the interval the mood changed to festive exuberance. Leroy Anderson’s Bugler’s Holiday a ripping musical yarn that got us all in the mood before a smattering of traditional carols that we were allowed, in fact encourage to join in with. These were interspersed with new and old yuletide treats, a carol about a donkey from Latin America, more Leroy Anderson with Sleigh Ride, Oh Holy Night which always brings a tear to my eyes and a final somewhat chaotic medley.

A word too for the lovely snow scene which filled the back of the stage and in the second half the animation gradually portrayed twilight fading to dark with the moon rising over the dip in the downs where the opera house glowed and Santa flew his sleigh and reindeer overhead.

This year the Youth Chorus were place between the orchestra and the adult chorus whereas last year they were place in the first tier of the circle to each side of the platform. I wish they had been there again, so that they were more prominent in the soundscape but also so we could enjoy the joy in their smiles as they perform in one of the greatest music venues in the world. It is a tiny quibble I know and it did not in any way spoil such a special evening. Do not miss this in years to come, the perfect Christmas treat and the ideal opportunity to discover both opera and Glyndebourne.

Andrew Kay


10 December

Rating: ★★★★½

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