Sebastian F. Schwarz, General Director of Glyndebourne, was here in Norwich yesterday to give us a sneak preview on the renowned opera company’s 2017 visit to Norwich. They’ll be here in November, and he gave us a bit of background on Glyndebourne itself, as well as a sneak preview of what we can expect.
Sebastian took over at Glyndebourne in May 2016, having previously worked as Deputy Artistic Director of Theater an der Wien in Vienna. Here he is giving us his thoughts on the festival, and what he loves about it:
From 14-18 November 2017, The Glyndebourne Tour will be in Norwich, with three very different operas. Those are Cosi Fan Tutte, The Barber of Seville, and a brand new production of Hamlet, rehearsals for which are currently underway.
Says Sebastian: “It’s very interesting for me. Although I didn’t commission this particular Hamlet, I was doing exactly the same thing in Vienna. And when I left Vienna, our Hamlet was complete – then I came to Glyndebourne, and saw a project that was ready to start rehearsals.
“That Hamlet in Vienna was a completely different way of treating the story, with the ghost of Hamlet’s father running through and interfering. Our Hamlet is very much a straightforward version. Of course, some things have to be left out – with a five act play, you can’t put that to music and end up with something that lasts less than 15 hours. Ask Mr Wagner, he’s experimented with that!”
Take a look at the creative team, including composer Brett Dean and librettist Matthew Jocelyn, discussing the production while it was being workshopped earlier this year:
The company will also perform Rossini’s popular comedy, Il Barbiere Di Siviglia, which premiered at the Glyndebourne Festival last year.
Sebastian explains: “It’s based on that famous Figaro trilogy, written in the 1770s. Back then, it was censored and prohibited, it couldn’t be performed for 6 years. Of course, that was Paris right before the revolution, so servants in that time were just wallpaper. Food had to appear on the table, but they didn’t matter – and this put the servants’ lives at the centre of it, it’s the revolution already on stage.
“This version was directed last year by Annabel Arden, and we thought: ‘we have to take that on tour, we want to show you this beautiful production’.”
And it’s not just on stage that the 2017 tour will be bringing opera to audiences outside of the company’s stately home in Sussex: “I mentioned it’s the first part of the Figaro trilogy. The second part, The Marriage Of Figaro, you’ll be able to see in cinemas to accompany the tour – so you can at least see two of the operas that make up this story.
“The third one, The Guilty Mother, has been put to music, and I staged it in once in Vienna, when we had all three being performed in one season. I wanted to show the whole story, but really it’s just not a great opera – so you can see the first and second part, but don’t worry about missing the third!”
Finally, audiences will be treated to Mozart’s sublime Cosi Fan Tutte. “In English, Cosi Fan Tutte strictly means ‘thus do they all’, but it’s usually translated as ‘women are like that’. Not quite politically correct, but we might recognise some of those behaviours. Not just the women, but the bragging of the men, for example…
“This is a production from a few years ago, directed by Nicholas Hytner, who was then the director of the National Theatre. It’s quite timeless, stylized – it almost feels like a fifties version of Naples, somehow. The music is something you’re probably familiar with, but if you aren’t familiar, it’s very accessible. It’s just typical Mozart and so beautiful.”
That’s quite the combination, and Sebastian is proud of that. “That’s what’s so wonderful about Glyndebourne. We try over the course of the summer, and also on the tour, to give you a little overview of the operatic repertoire. Not in an educational way, but to show off different musical styles, different ways of telling a story.
But also, it’s a chance to explore different aesthetic approaches; there are so many ways of putting a story on stage. And as theatre directors that’s what we hope, that our audiences are open enough and curious enough to discover these ways. And maybe, let’s have a look at a way of telling a story that we’re not familiar with, and we might find that it’s equally valid, and it might just tell us something that we didn’t know yet.”
You can see all three of those productions here in Norwich, when The Glyndebourne Tour 2017 arrives here in November. Tickets cost £8-55 and are available now.