Country house opera
Country house opera is opera performed at a country house, whether in the house itself, in the grounds, or in an adapted or purpose built theatre on the grounds. It is a feature in particular of the English summer. Country house opera is usually initiated by private enthusiasts, and relies almost exclusively upon private funding. This distinguishes it from the UK's state subsidised opera companies which, like most opera houses around the world, are based in city centres. Black tie is often de rigueur, in contrast with the Royal Opera House in London and other city operas where casual clothing is often acceptable.
The performances of country house opera are generally planned to provide a leisurely and elegant experience, with time for picnics on the lawns or a full meal during the often-lengthy interval, and often start in the late afternoon:
- "The English have always liked picnicking in the summer and if you can throw in a bit of entertainment, then that's even better" said a former manager at the Sydney Opera House, attributing the popularity of country house opera in England to "the wonderful adventurous spirit of the British.... The British like to go out and find a new place. No one in Australia would go out if they had to take a picnic and it was going to rain."
The most important landmark in country house opera was the opening of Glyndebourne Opera House in 1934. The Glyndebourne Festival Opera company has gradually expanded so that it now has a 1,200-seat theatre and it has become one of the most prominent opera companies in the United Kingdom, performing both at its home venue and on tour.
While other companies, which put on a regular summer season often include works from the standard repertoire, some specialise in particular composers or particular periods. Existing companies include Garsington Opera, Dorset Opera Festival at Bryanston in Dorset, Nevill Holt Opera at Nevill Holt Hall in Leicestershire, Longborough Festival Opera in Gloucestershire, Grange Park Opera in Surrey, Bampton Classical Opera in Oxfordshire, Bury Court Opera in Bentley near Farnham, Surrey, The Grange Festival at Northington, Hampshire and Opéra de Baugé, established by an English family in the Loire Valley. The country opera house tradition has inspired opera performances in similar settings outside England, such as Stålboga Summer Opera in Sweden.
There are also a number of touring companies that tour to several country houses each summer, which include Opera Project, "a touring company that plays at West Green, Iford Manor and many other venues round the country."
- Marylyn Abbott, quoted in "Country House Opera", Country Life, 17 June 2004 on countrylife.co.uk
- Christiansen, Rupert, "Where opera soars in harmony with nature", The Daily Telegraph, 31 May 2007. Retrieved 4 June 2014
- Author unknown, "Country House Opera", Country Life, 17 June 2004 on countrylife.co.uk
- Christiansen, Rupert, "A night at the country-house opera: Telegraph opera critic Rupert Christiansen on the highs and lows of a summer spent haring between Glyndebourne, Grange Park and Garsington", The Daily Telegraph, 27 May 2013. on telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
- Fisher, Neil, "Country-house opera: the rules of the game", The Times (London), 23 April 2014 (by subscription). Retrieved 4 June 2014
- Unknown author, "Country-house opera: Singing their own song: Even without public subsidy, country-house opera is thriving", The Economist (London), 17 June 1999. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
- White, Michael, "Paradoxes for Country Opera", The New York Times, 22 December 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
- Bampton Classical Opera website
- Bury Court Opera
- Dorset Opera Festival
- Garsington Opera at Wormsley website
- Glyndebourne Festival opera website
- Grange Park Opera website
- Longborough Festival Opera website
- Nevill Holt Opera website
- Opéra de Baugé website
- Winslow Hall Opera (formerly Stowe Opera)
- Woodhouse Opera website