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.  

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