I had a wonderful time performing in the role of Dorabella at Garsington in 2015. It was brilliant driving into the beautiful grounds of the Getty Estate at Wormsley each day, the “Garsington experience” is really magical for both the audience and performers.
Garsington Opera was founded in 1989 by the late Leonard Ingrams and his wife Rosalind at Garsington Manor, near Oxford. Following Leonard’s untimely death, Garsington Opera moved to the Wormsley Estate, home of the Getty family, in 2011. Garsington’s award-winning Pavillion was designed by architect Robin Snell. It is elevated above the ground to give an appearance of ‘floating’ over the landscape. The design is from a traditional Japanese Kabuki pavillion in its use of sliding screens, extended platforms and verandas and bridges linking into the landscape.
The designer for this production was Dick Bird and I really enjoyed Dorabella’s costume. Here he explains how he and director John Fulljames created a production especially for Wormsley’s stunning surroundings.
“The great thing about putting on an opera at Garsington is the location – a performance that takes place over a summer’s evening in beautiful countryside with a picnic at its centre – a game of two halves, with a feast in the middle.
We wanted to make our Così fan tutte fit effortlessly into its surroundings. And so we imagined the story unfolding at a wedding reception on a summer’s evening, just after the meal. Who could possibly in this moment think these lovers to be anything other than matched for life…? Well, Don Alfonso, the old cynic, who has seen more weddings (and more divorces) than anyone else present, finds the whole thing laughable – women, he says, are incapable of fidelity. A subject that makes Ferrando and Guglielmo, two dashing young soldiers, leap to the defence of their fiancées – they could never be unfaithful…
It is a Così fan tutte created for its location, with a bride who is a massive fan of Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette film…”
We had great fun using the surrounding gardens as part of our set during the performances – thankfully it never rained once during a performance! The views of the surrounding estate from the Pavillion are stunning with the lake, deer park and woods. We also had the opportunity to go on a mini tour to the estates beautiful walled gardens.
During the extended interval of the opera performance the audience members can picnic at a table by the lake or with a panoramic view of the deer park from the upper terrace the Opera Pavillion. There is also the opportunity to dine in the Long Room Marquee overlooking the Wormsley Cricket Ground.
In addition to a wonderful cast for the production directed by John Fulljames and conducted by Dougie Boyd, we also enjoyed performing with actors from the local community. As well as our public performances on the Wormsley Estate, one of the performances of Cosi Fan Tutte was filmed LIVE and screened in three costal communities Louth, Grimsby and Ramsgate as well as Waddeson and Oxford. I was fortunate to be able to attend the screening in Oxford at the Magdalen College Fields on 2nd July and it was a fabulous evening with a lovely launch reception prior to the screening. It was so wonderful to be able to sit on the lawn with an enthusiastic crowd watching the performance in such a relaxed atmosphere and it was a treat to see the production from a totally new perspective!