Violin Vixen Goes to Glyndebourne

Last week rock fiddler and Classic Rock columnist Anna Phoebe, aka ‘the Vixen of the Violin’, turned up at Glyndebourne. It was her first visit, so I decided to ask her what she made of it all… 

First, here’s a sample of what she does.

And here’s a sample of what she heard: Britten’s Billy Budd in Michael Grandage’s new production.

JD: So, Anna, what do you think of the show so far?

AP: It’s absolutely amazing! It’s been the most wonderful day out. And it makes me feel really English, being here. It’s probably one of the most English experiences I’ve ever had in my life! It’s so very cultured, the music is absolutely incredible, and thanks to Tom [my hubby – jd] it’s been amazing to see behind the scenes.

JD: Very different from stadium sets?

AP: Slightly more civilised! And I don’t think I’ve ever heard more champagne corks popping amid the audience before and in the interval…

JD: What’s surprised you most today?

AP: I was really amazed to hear that none of the singers are miked up. In the sort of shows I do, but also in the West End, everything is miked up, but this is completely natural. It’s incredible to hear just the pure sounds of the voices and the orchestra. There’s real power behind the singers, but also behind the whole production. The set is incredible – the amount of money they must spend on it!

JD: Have you been to an opera before?

AP: I’ve been a few times, but I’m really not familiar with it. When I was growing up I went to classical concerts and jazz with my parents, and with my work I’ve spent a lot of time going to gigs and concerts, but not opera. This is probably the perfect experience of it.

JD: What do you think of Glyndebourne sartorially? You have a very glam dress…

AP: I think dressing up just adds to the whole effect. You walk into the grounds on a day like this, the sun’s shining and everyone is out with their champagne glasses and their dresses… I love the white evening suits that some of the men are wearing, and the bow ties – it adds to the sense of formality, but at the same time the atmosphere is so relaxed.

JD: Does it make you want to hear other operas?

AP: Definitely, and it makes me want to read more and learn more about them too. I’m excited to come back in August to see Hänsel und Gretel. And I’d like to go and see Carmen at Holland Park because I worked with one of the lead singers, Hannah Pedley, in a rock capacity. I’ve been involved with a project called Sonnet 155, based on Shakespeare, and the live show was a rock band with two opera singers and Shakespearean actors including Richard Briars. So there was Hannah in a rock context even though she’s an opera singer, and she’s playing Carmen.

JD: You like being taken ‘out of your comfort zone’?

AP: It’s very inspiring to experience something so different. One thing I love about this is the theatrical aspect. I’d underestimated how much opera singers have to act, and I didn’t realise how directed the opera would be. I saw Carmen at the Royal Albert Hall, and the staging was amazing, but this is a step beyond that.

Looking around, it is generally a white, middle-class audience – but I think a lot of people who wouldn’t expect to enjoy opera would love this experience. Even if they imagine they wouldn’t like the music or the atmosphere, actually I think they would! You couldn’t help but be favourably impressed. I’ll definitely come back for more.

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