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Glyndebourne, set in rural Surrey, is the third largest opera house in the UK.  Its founder, John Christie, was passionate about opera, and married to a lyric soprano Audrey Mildmay who had sung with the Carl Rosa Company.  His aim was to offer superb, well-rehearsed performances focusing on Mozart’s operas.

The first season opened in May 1934 with Figaro and Così being performed on alternating nights.  Productions ceased in 1940 when World War Two forced closure and Glyndebourne was turned into a children’s nursery/hospital.  Undaunted, Christie re-opened the House postwar in 1950 with Seraglio and Così, a program that was repeated in 1951 to celebrate the Festival of Britain. This production of Così was also the first opera televised by the BBC.

Since then Così fan tutte, (Mozart and librettist Lorenzo da Ponte’s third and final collaboration), has played an important and popular role at Glyndebourne.  Consequently their 2006 production, directed by Nicholas Hytner, was Music Director Chris van Tuinen choice for West Australian Opera’s 2020 season.  Così has not been performed by WAO since 1985.

Contracts were duly signed and Head of Wardrobe, Sue Kerr, flew to the UK where she spent three days with the wardrobe department at Glyndebourne discussing the packing of costumes.  It would also be her responsibility to ensure that they would be packed and returned to Glyndebourne on time for their 2021 season.

All went according to plan until COVID-19 struck.  Costumes, packed in cardboard boxes, had already arrived by air and sets, furniture and props, were in transit in four large sea containers:  On arrival all had to be stored in Perth awaiting a decision on viability of the October production.

Casting has also had its challenges as some of the original cast were to have travelled from interstate.  Local singers have now stepped up, thus giving WA talent the opportunity to perform major roles onstage and some are making their role debuts (see amended cast list).

Rehearsals began in late September.  However, the designated Glyndebourne Rehearsal Director, Bruno Ravella was unable to leave the UK and local Director Margrete Helgeby-Chaney is working in conjunction with him via Zoom.  

This Glyndebourne connection is the latest instance where West Australian Opera has proved its ability to meet with and overcome adversity.  The season will run for four nights, with limited seating.  I’m sure that you, the audience, will be proud of our Company and enjoy this wonderful production of what many believe is Mozart’s finest opera, Così fan Tutte.

Annie Patrick September, 2020