Summer opera festivals are a time to appreciate the joys of music and nature. Seasonal opera venues are usually in the grounds of magnificent country houses, each with their own uniquely beautiful gardens.
Italian is the traditional language of opera, so it’s hardly surprising that many famous opera gardens have a distinctly Italian flavour.
Garsington Manor’s Italian Garden Pool is one of the most romantic spots to share a pre-opera picnic, amongst classical style stone statues, whilst enjoying sweeping vistas over the Oxfordshire countryside.
Although the opera is moving to pastures new next year, you’ll still be able to visit the garden through the National Gardens scheme, as well as local events.
The house and gardens were restored from near dereliction by the wonderfully eccentric Lady Ottoline Morrell and her husband, Philip, who mixed with London’s Bloomsbury set in the 1920s. Lady Ottoline, a six foot tall redhead sounds curiously fascinating. She was described by Vita Sackville-West as, “a very queer personality…with masses of purple hair, a deep voice, teeth like a piano keyboard and the most extraordinary assortment of clothes, hung with barbaric necklaces… a born
I was wondering about her exploits as I took a stroll around the kitchen garden, sipped a glass of champagne beside the pretty dovecote, and soaked up the scent of classic passion red coloured roses…
Grange Park Opera in Hampshire is rather different, sitting as it does amidst a working agricultural estate, owned by the Baring family. Lord Ashburton apologized for the curious appearance of surrounding fields this year, as sheets of biodegradable wrap covered the maize crop to prevent damage by late frosts...
Ingeniously, the plants grow up through the cover, which eventually disintegrates into the soil. You can see the difference in the amount of greenery that’s visible from these two photographs, taken only a week apart.
Although GPO, as it’s affectionately known, isn't quite so Italianate, it’s got some really dramatic features, like the stunning cedar tree, which becomes ever more magical as the light fades in the evening.
I’m also especially fond of the little twinkling trees at twilight, but then I’m a sucker for anything sparkly.
The opera season at Glyndebourne has an altogether more international following, but the gardens are decidedly English.
Artists in residence have also added their unique touches to the landscape and house, in the form of paintings, photographs and sculptures – like Nic Fiddian-Green’s imposing monumental horse heads.
Here you’ll spot elegantly dressed opera goers picnicking by the lake, beside a field of sheep (grazing on the other side of the the ha-ha), or under the monkey puzzle tree.
Others wile away the afternoon by wandering around the grounds, enjoying the authentic charm of country garden style and the natural beauty of the Summer flowers.
If you’re London based, Holland Park has its own opera season, whilst The Garden Opera company hosts events across the country, including London – they’ll even put one on in your back garden, if you so desire.
By the way, when it comes to finding appropriately dressy accessories for a grand operatic occasion, may I suggest some of the exquisite handmade wooden rings by the Maggio sisters at ShopCurious. With delicately hand painted images in the style of Old Master paintings, each of their Italian garden inspired rings is a one-off work of art. They’re great as special gifts and keepsakes too, especially if you're keen to revive fond memories of flower filled Summer opera gardens.
Curiculum Vitae Jeffry Zebua
6 months ago