Some people don’t like countryhouse opera

Some people don’t like countryhouse opera


norman lebrecht

May 21, 2017

A polemic in The Stage throws stones at the fastest-growing, most innovative sector in UK opera:

Country-house opera: a small but critical part of the operatic economy, staging creative productions and innovative repertoire while offering career opportunities for hardworking, but underpaid, musicians. No, that doesn’t sound right. Let’s try again.

Country-house opera: a load of overdressed and over-accented toffs snoozing through antiquated performances after indulgence in champagne and quails’ egg sandwiches.

Read on here.

photo: Garsington/Mike Hoban


  • Alexander says:

    the best snack for champagne is meats , some who want to reveal the full taste of the bubbles eat strawberries, just from memory … countryside might have different tastes …. whatevs 😉

  • Ulick Magee says:

    I usually bring my own wild Salmon from the Gowla, miles better than the chemical dyed stuff only a fool would eat meat with Champagne!

    • Alexander says:

      eat meat /strawberry … etc with champagne and get a bite after a sip are different things 😉 I do it every now and then … hopefully you will understand what I am talking about another day , if you are not a fool of course 😉

  • Maria says:

    Well that’s interesting, isn’t it, because I thought that all opera performances were supposed to be full of “overdressed and over-accented toffs”.

    Critics of opera need to make their minds up.

    Perhaps they could also explain to us precisely how these toff detectors work. Is it facial recognition linked electronically to Burke’s Peerage, or what?

    • 18mebrumaire says:

      Burke’s Peerage? No, no, no. Too restrictive. Burke’s Landed Gentry (19th edn in 4 vols) is the one to go for as it reveals the intricate web of upper middle-class cousinage that has been at the heart of establishment power in the UK for centuries. Just as a taster, look up the Christie family entry.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    Man does not live by bread alone. In the darkest times of the Second World War, when every bit of the national budget was being squeezed for the war effort, public money was still made available for lunchtime and evening concerts up and down the land. It is utterly shameful that successive UK governments have cut and cut and cut arts budgets, arguing that private enterprise needed to take up the slack. Instead of bemoaning the fact that there are now so many private opera initiatives, which all need to demand horrendous ticket prices simply in order to survive, we should direct our attention towards our increasingly philistine politicians. They seem very loth to look across the water and see how much national governments in France and Germany, for instance, (and the current government never stops reminding us that the British economy is comparable to those two nation-states) are giving to the arts in the form of public subsidies. But, on reflection, the assumption that we could possibly learn something from other European countries would never work, would it? The country voted a year ago to free itself from all the the nasty European values that apparently stopped us in the past from taking back the oh-so-important “control”. Internationalism is not exactly flavour of the month.

    • Maria says:

      “The country voted a year ago to free itself from all the the nasty European values”

      It did nothing of the sort.

      • Alexander Hall says:

        That’s your opinion. Just ask any of the merry band of Brexiteers why they felt they had so little in common with continental Europe.

      • Bruce says:

        It seems possible that many of the people voting for Brexit actually were voting for something very much like that. That may not be what they actually get, but it it does look as if it’s what they wanted. (Just like here in the US, where lots of people voted for Trump because they wanted Hillary in jail, or… well, pick any ridiculous campaign promise he made that he’s not planning to deliver on.)

  • Una says:

    Fine if opera is your hobby, you have money and like the lifestyle that goes with it all! The only people I know that go of that sort of opera, apart from those who actually enjoy going, are those who get in for free as they have a student they teach singing in the cast but wouldn’t go otherwise! I go to Opera North, now that I have moved up from London. I know some people won’t like them as it’s not in London so might be second-class. But just bought my season ticket for the year, and what a season they have too. Have a ticket where I can see and hear everything, and it came to £97 for the whole year. Just been to their Turandot for the second time, and that was only £15, and lucky to get in. I don’t get to ENO and Covent Garden so often now as I used to. I went to everything at ENO when in London as that wasn’t expensive, but I get to see some of the relays in my local cinema from the Garden, and I go to Bradford to see what interests me from the Met relays in the National Media Museum. Country Opera? No thanks, but each to his own. But I’m making it down for the Proms in August!

  • Bruce says:

    Of course, quoting the very next paragraph in the article would have taken all the fun out of posting it here.

    “Well, both – and neither – are true, depending on your point of view, or even on which side of the proscenium arch you’re positioned. The first description is the practical day-to-day reality those in the opera business would recognise, but which isn’t going to sell many seats. The second is the cliche beloved of those churning out those sight bites that seem to have perennial appeal, at least to those who never attend opera.”