In 1966, when I was Assistant to the legendary Jani Strasser, we (George Christie and I together with other colleagues, including Myer Fredman, GTO's first music director and Glyndebourne's then chorus master) began to develop the idea of a touring wing of the company which would do two things - provide much more opera in the English regions than was available at the time, and secondly provide a development path for the many exceptional young singers who joined the company in the chorus for whom there were limited opportunities to bridge the gap to national or international careers.
Scottish Opera was a four year old part time operation at that time, developed by Peter Hemmings and Alexander Gibson, respectively Artistic Administrator of Sadler's Wells Opera and music director of the Scottish National Orchestra. The Welsh National Opera was a company with an amateur (but famously excellent) chorus just on the brink of going big. And Opera North did not exist. It eventually morphed into Opera North in 1981 from its original incarnation as English National Opera North which was founded, as an offshoot of the London company in 1978, through the initiative and leadership of the Earl of Harewood.
So the original Glyndeboune Touring Opera had an important role to play. Our activity was eventually regulated through the tireless and bouncy Jack Phipps at the Arts Council of Great Britain to ensure that between us all we covered the UK in an efficient and effective way.
I was the first administrator of the company and ran it for the first fourteen years of its life until I became General Administrator of Glyndebourne in 1981. I appointed Anthony Whitworth-Jones to succeed me and he, in good time, succeeded me as General Director (they changed the name not the job!) in 1989.
This touring activity is no longer called Glyndebourne Touring Opera but rather Glyndebourne on Tour. I occasionally see the "on" dropped so maybe a further name change is in the works. Glyndebourne continues to provide wonderful opportunities for people around rthe country to see the quality work produced at the Glyndebourne Festival. However, whilst in the old days we went to all the big cities like Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle on Tyne, and Oxford - these larger centres are now served by the Scottish and Welsh companies.
This year the largest centres are Plymouth and Norwich, the only two remaining from the 1970s and 1980s. But the company now provides great opportunities for audiences in Woking, Canterbury, Milton Keynes, and Stoke on Trent. And also in Wimbledon in south west London just four subway stops from home! So it was to Wimbledon that I went on the last two evenings - to see the company whose work I had not seen at all for more than 20 years!
There are just two productions on tour this year, plus a chamber piece The Yellow Sofa which is performed in smaller spaces. I will be seeing it in Milton Keynes at the end of November.
The Figaro production is the new one that Michael Grandage directed for the 2012 festival. Of particular interest to me was to see three north American singers who had been drafted in to the cast, notably Layla Claire who was a stunning Countess. Joélle Harvey provided a very well sung Susanna and John Moore displayed a burnished sound as the Count. I should really have chosen to see the non-American cast members but that was just the luck of the draw. I am unavailable to go back this week to see the other casts - maybe that means an additional trip to Milton Keynes?!
The great joy of Rusalka was Natasha Jouhl in the title role. Natasha had been our Flowering Tree in Chicago in 2008. She does other worldly creatures remarkably. But, for the record, she also scored a great success as Donna Anna in Garsington last summer. And the Glyndebourne (on) Tour Orchestra produced marvellous playing from the extremely gifted out going music director of the company, Jakub Hrůša. He is up there in the line of fine music directors of the tour branch which have included Jane Glover, Ivor Bolton, Louis Langrée, Edward Gardner, and Robin Ticciati.
I am off to Nice tomorrow for five days - the primary reason being to see my old friend Errol Girdleston who is conducting the Messiah in Monte Carlo on Saturday evening. I will be reporting from there!