Friday, 27 June 2008

Life's a picnic - Act I

I went to see L'incoronazione di Poppea by Monteverdi at Glyndebourne - a cleverly staged production with baroque style music that is very easy on the ears, especially with the sublime voices in this performance - in fact I love any beautiful music, combined with an overdose of drama and the most wonderful costumes .. not only on the stage, but in the audience too. People normally dress up - like Shirley and I, arriving Ab Fab style (left) and the conductor of the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment, Emmanuelle Haim, on the first night with her Westwood-cum-Edwardian style bustle skirt (right, from behind).

At Grange Park Opera (GPO), I saw Bluebeard - a bit too curiously staged even for me - and then La Fanciulla del West which was memorably awesome. I'm not the world's most fervent fan of opera, nor Puccini, but Grange Park has a way of doing curiously quirky yet very clever productions that are fun, but also make you think - and even I manage to stay awake throughout.

As with all these things, there's a lot of competion, not only with the outfits, but with the picnics too. There are beautiful gardens at Glyndebourne (left), but it can get a bit chilly in the evening, so the less hardy tend to decamp to the opera terraces, where tables are laid out in style (right).

It's fascinating to observe which supermarkets people have visited to stock up for the occasion. Some are more original than others and, looking out for the curiously original, I spotted one opera-goer tucking into some wasabi peas (below left) and, dahling, it's absolutely imperative to have one's parmesan knife to hand, it could turn out to be very useful...

Grange Park has the most magnificent setting, with dramatic classical architecture and mood setting cedar trees, and becomes even more stunning at twighlight (left). There's even an old GPO telephone box with a light inside, creating a focus of illumination in a nearby field - much like the telephone box lamp available from ShopCurious.

You can hire a little tent - reminiscent of the ones seen on the boundaries of medieval jousting tournaments in the days when men were knights and women were ladies. You can even take your own fountain if you want - only joking!

At ShopCurious, we have some really useful stone placemats and coasters that are great for outdoors - they don't blow away when it's windy and you can leave them out in all weathers - they make an unusual gift too. If you don't like the idea of upmarket al fresco dining, the Grange Park caterers do seriously delicious food that you can eat in the very elegant (and dry) confines of the main house, which post-refurbishment, is considerably less dilapidated than was formerly the case. So, what do you do if it rains... well, us Brits are used to braving the elements and you will see opera goers scurrying around with their picnic wares in all weathers. And with their umbrellas too.

But, gradually, as the afternoon turns to evening and the night sets in, the lawyers, hedge fund managers and assembled glitterati tend to forget about the weather, as everything becomes more relaxed and a bit less focused on the rigours of life in the lutte pour la vie.

It's all a blur of lights and umbrellas, Ms Haim's other half has rather appropriately developed a halo of enlightenment and there's a very pleasant feeling that everyone has had an extremely nice evening together, whatever their differences. As everyone is...
Are you?

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