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The OAE return to Glyndebourne

Artistic Director Stephen Langridge introduces our Beethoven and Brahms concert with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Artistic Director Stephen Langridge introduces our Beethoven and Brahms concert with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Sometime after we had to cancel the 2020 Glyndebourne Festival, Robin Ticciati and I were sitting (socially distanced) in a scrubby bit of Lewes golf course digesting what we couldn’t do, and trying to imagine what we could, or might be able to do, to mitigate the threat of the complete absence of live music ahead of us. Robin mentioned his autumn work with our friends, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE), and the brilliant violinist, Alina Ibragimova: couldn’t we find a way to bring them to Glyndebourne?

Naturally I was enthusiastic. It had been a triple blow: to be denied hearing the OAE inside our theatre this year (although the summer garden concerts were beautiful, and the first sign that live music could find a way through); to have to postpone our new production of Beethoven’s Fidelio, in the 250th anniversary year; and to have to cancel our Tour. As we readjusted the Tour into a ‘staycation’, we found a way to include this important concert.

The OAE. Photo: Belinda Lawley

To us Fidelio seems even more relevant in this time of lockdowns and solitude, when people are separated from their loved ones; a time when we need to keep our hopes, optimism and love alive, qualities exemplified in the opera by Leonore and Florestan. We were lucky that both Emma Bell and David Butt Philip, who were to lead the summer production, were able to join us at short notice.

The programme explores the arc of the narrative introducing us first to Leonore, determined to rescue her husband from prison, in an aria which includes the line: ‘Komm, Hoffnung, lass den letzten Stern der Müden nicht erbleichen’ (‘Come, Hope, don’t let the guiding star of the weary fade away’). Next, we hear Florestan, in solitary confinement, holding fast to his love of Leonore to keep him from despair. Finally, the duet as they are reunited and together struggle to express the intensity and joy of the moment – O namenlose Freude!

As we acknowledge Beethoven, it seems appropriate to conclude our concert with Brahms’ violin concerto. Brahms was, famously, in awe of Beethoven, and the concerto takes forward the operatic lyricism of Fidelio beyond words and firmly into the Romantic era.

When travel restrictions and quarantine were imposed for those travelling from Germany it became impossible for Robin to join us this evening. The strange complexity of these times, however, while closing down some avenues, also unexpectedly opens others, and so it is with great pleasure that I am able to welcome Sir Mark Elder back onto the podium at Glyndebourne to conduct this singular, and exquisite, concert.

At the time of writing, I am putting my trust in Die Hoffnung. If you are reading this sitting in Glyndebourne’s beautiful auditorium, having successfully emerged from lockdown 2, I hope the light at the end of the tunnel seems brighter through music, and that it will not be long before we can be together again to share the joy of opera in a packed theatre. I believe we will all value that precious experience even more after these difficult times.

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