Sunday 1 July 2012

What to wear to an English summer opera

No, I'm not turning my hand to fashion blogging; this was a question an invitation had me pondering last weekend.

The venue: a country estate on the border of Suffolk; the order of events: drinks in the manor house, then a picnic and opera performance in the gardens; the music: Mozart and Leoncavallo; the guests: sounded awfully posh. So floaty summer dresses, kitten heels and a ghastly hat? No. The weather forecast: pouring rain and high winds.

Fashion notes: 1) if you're over a certain age a sensible mac and umbrella are the only essential wardrobe items, no matter what the social event; 2) never pack away the wool scarves and boots - you will need them in mid-summer; 3) the boating blazer in deck-chair stripes is best left to the sort of Englishman bred on regattas and country home weekends for whom eccentric dress sense comes in the DNA.
Stanley Hall's Midsummer Opera Festival is in its 12th year now. It's not Glyndebourne, but it might be one day (see here). The venue is the gardens of an Elizabethan manor house, its owner turned impresario.

The present Hall was built in the early 1500s, but the gardens show traces of inhabitants going backwards through the Norman Conquest and medieval times to Roman occupation.

As the rain started  pelting down again we moved towards the marquees ...

dodging farm trucks and equipment

to find our seats on a floor of wood-chips where the orchestra was already assembled
and a set with a view to the gardens through rain-soaked sheeting

Pagliacco preparing his harlequin's make-up 

and with the wind shaking and rattling the tent roof and flaps they were off in full flight ...

All photos taken at  Stanley Hall Opera, Halstead, Essex, June 2012.  


  1. Triumph over adversity! I hope you selected the appropriate attire to allow you to enjoy this event and your not too soggy picnic! Oh dear!

    So many outdoor events have been badly affected by this awful summer we have been having so far. I attended the Royal Highland Show, just outside Edinburgh, last weekend and it was a complete wash out!

  2. Thank you for such a magical wonderful post.

  3. Karen, that setting is gorgeous, even when wet. The aged bricks and varied greens are a feast for the eye. Glad that the marquee allowed the feast for your ears to carry on.

    I am sure that your own apparel was well chosen! xo

  4. So nice to have this inside-look at the fun! And yes, the weather is pretty much the same here. We never really put away the sweaters and jackets and certainly, not the scarves. Essential wardrobe staples.

  5. Bella already expressed my thoughts, triumph over adversity! The beauty of the place and the glimpses of the singers preparing for their performance reflect a wonderful setting and event, despite the unfriendly midsummer skies.

  6. Fabulous photos of a fabulous scene!
    The weather's always a hazard at these wonderful outdoor music venues. Over in the US Northeast, there's Caramoor and Glimmerglass and the big gorilla, Tanglewood. Your English operagoers are more stylish than their American counterparts, I would say. Those awesome blazer stripes! (Although I fall in the waterproof and umbrella camp myself.)
    At Tanglewood the Opera shed is a ramshackle thing; during a performance of Don Giovanni in a thunderous downpour the roof leaked so badly water was pouring down the aisles into the orchestra pit, and the performance was nearly halted! An added bit of drama ---


Related Posts with Thumbnails