Summer opera festival keeps it in the family

If Bayreuth can do it…. Here’s a press release, just landed:

Acclaimed opera director Polly Graham is to become Artistic Director of Longborough Festival Opera.
The 33-year- old daughter of Martin and Lizzie Graham says: “As a family we are so proud of Longborough and have long talked about its future. But it is only recently that I have felt ready to take on the challenge of leading it forward.”

The Longborough theatre was built on a dream in the garden of maverick impresario Martin Graham’s family home, and opened in 1997. From the beginning Lizzie Graham has been running the shows, and in 2014 appointed Jennifer Smith as General Manager.

Looking to the future, Martin and Lizzie will continue to be deeply involved in the festival, and it is with their blessing that Polly will steer it in a new direction. Lizzie Graham says: “We are delighted that Polly will be continuing the Longborough legacy. It seems the perfect way to build on what has been achieved here.” Polly will take up her new role with immediate effect.


Unlike Bayreuth, Longborough receives no public subsidy.

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  • Surely the headline should read “If Glyndebourne can do it…” Polly Graham is a genuine directorial talent in her own right, and is easily as qualified and experienced as any of the Christies. Plus she really understands what makes Longborough special. It’s always been artistically bold; it’s never been a twee, soft-focus “country house opera” – they wouldn’t have put on a Ring Cycle otherwise.. This is an encouraging appointment.

    • ‘it’s never been a twee, soft-focus “country house opera” ‘

      Pull the other one, it’s got caviar on. It’s literally in a country house, it’s more twee than a forest with a speech impediment, and the ticket prices for Dutchman this summer start (yes, START) at £105.

      • £105 for an subsidised performance, with a good view, sounds reasonable to me.

        Not like being 1 in 20,000 in some arena, is it?

      • B*S*. It’s not “literally in a country house”: it’s in a converted chicken shed on a farm. Prices are low for the unsubsidised sector (let alone the West End) and you’re closer to the action than at any comparable UK opera house. The orchestra gives top-level work to Brummie freelance musicians at a time of year when that’s at a premium. And yeah, you’re free to find Tristan und Isolde, Gotterdammerung and Jenufa twee, I guess, or Orpha Phelan’s production of Fidelio for that matter, but I suspect it says more about you than anything going on at Longborough.

        You just enjoy all that delicious spite, anyway. Try not to choke on it.

  • “It does slightly bother me that there are three statues on top of this opera house and they are all of men [her father proudly hoisted up giant effigies of Wagner, Mozart and Verdi ten years ago]. I look forward to the day when there’s a woman there. I definitely want to commission women composers — there’s a lot of great ones out there — and achieve 50:50 gender parity when hiring conductors, directors and so on.”

    What a wonderful initiative! May I also add that all three – Wagner, Mozart, and Verdi – were white ethnic Europeans? Good God! What about the African American composers, the Orthodox Jews, the transgender Lesbians? Don’t they deserve representation on equal terms?

    I surely hope little miss Polly can address this shocking inequity during her promising reign and thereby heighten the Longborough experience for all of us.

    • Yes, you are quite right Tom. Why feature male conductors/composers/directors when there are perfectly good female ones? Why allow white leaders within the arts when perfectly serviceable BAME folk exist? Why are white males even there? In fact, I wish Polly’s first act as Music Director is to fire herself on the basis of her own race and promptly hire someone coloured (preferably female)!

    • Exactly. Why feature male conductors/composers/directors when perfectly serviceable female ones exist? Why hire white Europeans in the arts when wonderful coloured colleagues walk amongst us?

      One wishes Polly’s first act as Artistic Director is to fire herself on the basis of her own gender and hire someone coloured in her place (preferably a female).

      • Things have pretty much gotten to the point where, if you set out with the goal of hiring (say) a female conductor, you don’t have to compromise on quality.

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