I wanted to see Stefan Herheim’s new Glyndebourne staging of Pelléas et Mélisande in part out of perverse curiosity. What would happen when opera’s most hyperactive extrovert directs opera’s least flamboyant, er, opera? I was on my way to the Nineteenth-Century Music Conference in Huddersfield so I went to Glyndebourne first. Also I remembered I have a blog so I decided to write about it here.
And unfortunately I think Debussy might be Herheim’s kryptonite.
My trip to the UK has been a weird crash course in postcolonial studies. First I saw Lakmé, a veritable celebration of British colonialism, in posh Holland Park, at an opera house whose tickets contain a note about where to position your pre-opera picnic. Then I went to Glyndebourne, an elaborate imperial picnic venue which also happens to perform opera. And there I saw, of all things, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, an older and less Britain-centric exotic relic, but, still. (Then there was Guillaume Tell, which was less site specific.)
Rest assured that I did not plan this–but, since the other operas on at present include Falstaff and Aida, I likely would have ended up in the same place even if my choices had been somewhat different.
Anyway, I arrived in Glyndebourne with my friend and our picnic and I enjoyed the gardens and sheep and the fancy dresses of everyone else who was out in rural England for opera in the middle of a Thursday afternoon. It really is a beautiful and relaxing setting. I don’t think that Calixto Bieito’s Entführung (an example I use altogether too frequently but what else would work here?) would be at home. It’s not that provocation and leisure are incompatible, and the Glyndebourne model in fact offers ample time for reflection. But, on another level, how pleasant does your sex slavery Singspiel have to be for it to go with your picnic?