Behind the Curtain: a night to remember

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As part of La traviata: Behind the Curtain we’ve invited choirs from the local community to sing on stage with the Glyndebourne Chorus. Here, John Hole, who sang with the community choir during the opening night at Glyndebourne, tells us what the experience was like.


The opportunity to sing with the Glyndebourne Chorus, two rehearsals and memorising two pieces in Italian in a week. Sounds easy, written down like that…

The rehearsals were brilliant – funny, motivating and a joy. We were introduced to the chorus pieces syllable by syllable, warned that the arrangements were fluid and, like Cato in the Inspector Clouseau films, advised to expect the unexpected. No kidding.

We all had different ways of learning the words. Rehearsal recordings, played incessantly in the car, repetition while cleaning the house or simply reciting words at every moment!

On Monday we had the chance to sit through the dress rehearsal and to sing ‘Va Pensiero’ [the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco] from the auditorium. The whole show was enjoyable; our excitement cranked up a notch.

The performance was on Thursday night. We started with mandatory selfies at the Stage Door. Ellie and Bea from the Glyndebourne education team ensured we successfully made our way through the labyrinthine passages to our room.

We were taken to the Glyndebourne stage – wow – and there were run throughs with the movement director and with the conductor. It seemed quite unbelievable that we would soon be on stage with the full company and a packed house. No pressure.

We waited back in our Green Room and discussed how each of us came to be singing, the influences of friends, loved ones and teachers were common threads. Then the remarkable process of coalescing into a team happened. If anyone sat on their own, then someone would go across to them to check they were alright. We asked each other – ‘Are you OK?’ ‘Are you enjoying it?’ ‘Are you looking forward to it as much I am?’

Then to the stage, via the maze of corridors. On we went, moved to the front, sang, the curtain fell and off we walked. Simple really. No, not at all – fabulous, fantastic fun. A privilege and honour.

Reader, I was ecstatic. ‘Va Pensiero’ is my favourite piece of opera and I was lucky enough to perform in a sold out show at a world famous opera house with the Glyndebourne cast and orchestra and with the help of the whole stage crew.

We returned at the start of the second act, introduced to our Glyndebourne Chorus minders – they were brimming with confidence and most welcoming. Suddenly we sprinted on, to a foot stamping, arm waving chorus, singing at the top our voices.

Later we were part of the curtain call and instructed to move to the front to take a bow. I did not need asking twice. Moving to the very front of the stage, level with the fantastic compare Chris Addison, I drank in the applause and bowed.

Thank you, Glyndebourne, thank you very much.


La traviata: Behind the Curtain is on stage around the country until 29 November. Each venue will feature a different community choir from the local area.

Book now:

Norwich – 15 November
Woking – 21 November
Milton Keynes – 29 November