When the London opera houses fob us off with live relays Glyndebourne continues to meet what the Arts Council once demanded. A good stalls ticket for a performance at the Theatre Royal Norwich is only a few pounds more than the back row of the gods at Covent Garden. We went twice, and stayed in Pottergate Apartments, a very pleasant place with parking, and only five minutes’ walk from the theatre.
Unfortunately, photography is not permitted in the auditorium so verbal description will have to serve. We saw Handel’s Saul, with an exquisite counter-tenor role for David and an over-the-top (if that’s possible) bass Saul. The production used 18th century costumes with camp or punk additions, plus something close to 007 for David. The witch of Endor was hilarious in drag, matching Saul’s deep tones beautifully. Dance was used to brilliant effect and the orchestral playing was magnificent.
“Follow that” was the feeling, but next evening’s Die Entfuhring aus dem Serail did exactly that, with wit, elegance and not a little sexiness. Apart from his good looks, there seemed to be enough attraction in the Pasha for Konstanze to be more than a bit doubtful of her constancy.
These are not “headline” singers but Glyndebourne has the ability to attract singers who will be at the top in a very few years. In a relatively small theatre every word is clear and beautiful sung. Both evenings moved with good pace and were given rapturous applause and numerous curtain calls.
Apart from planning our visits for the next tour in 2016 we are now reflecting on the other pleasures of a wintry weekend in Norwich. Friends came to visit and, having an apartment, we could entertain them to lunch at leisure. The afternoon was spent exploring shops for two, hoping to visit Dragon Hall but having to settle for a chilly but enjoyable riverside walk for the others. The bonus at the end was the welcoming and ever-wonderful cathedral, where the choir and organist were in rehearsal. There was time also to reflect on the moving Ana Maria Pacheco sculpture seen before, now made even more poignant by the cathedral’s response to the refugee crisis.
Is there anything to regret about Norwich? Apart from Dragon Hall being closed to visitors and the market somewhat reduced from how we first encountered it, nothing. Ah, yes! The traffic. Our parking was a bonus but when we came to leave the ring road was less than walking pace. There is no historic city that was built for modern traffic, obviously, and none yet offers a good solution to its problems. We have to take them as we find them and enjoy what they offer as we can. However we do it the pleasures of Norwich outweigh any number of problems, and the opera tour makes anything worth while.