Liverpool – a long-awaited return for the Tour
This autumn, the Glyndebourne Tour returns to Liverpool for the first time since the 1970s. We take a look back at our history in the city.
Glyndebourne Festival productions were staged in Liverpool in 1940 and 1946 – with one-off visits of The Beggars Opera and The Rape of Lucretia respectively – before the company undertook a two-week season at the city’s Royal Court Theatre in 1956.
Glyndebourne Member Ian Edwards has fond memories of that visit and sent us copies of some of the press coverage it attracted. ‘As you can see, it was quite an event in Liverpool at the time, and to me in particular as a teenager,’ he wrote.
The invitation to present a short season in Liverpool came from the Liverpool Philharmonic Society, who also provided financial backing for the visit. Such was the excitement in the city, that by the time the curtain rose on opening night, the performances had set a new northern box-office record for opera.
Among the luminaries who attended the glittering gala opening were the Lord Mayor of Liverpool and the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury who, the Liverpool Daily Post reported, ‘made a special journey from their Stafford home to be present.’ Many people dressed up for the occasion – a nod to the tradition of wearing evening dress at the Glyndebourne Festival.
Across two weeks, Glyndebourne gave four performances each of three different operas – Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni by Mozart and Rossini’s La Cenerentola. Among the starry cast of top international opera singers were Sesto Bruscatini, Joan Southerland, Geraint Evans, Sena Jurinac, Marina De Gabarain and Ian Wallace. Vittorio Gui, John Pritchard and Bryan Balkwill shared conducting duties.
Critics and audience were united in praise of the exceptional quality of the performances. The Liverpool Daily Post reported that on the opening night, ‘The company and orchestra took 11 curtain calls as cheers rang out from all corners of the house,’ while the Liverpool Daily Echo enthused, ‘at last we have seen opera as it should be’.
Such was the success that many of the press reports called for the immediate planning of Glyndebourne’s next visit. ‘It is not, I think, too soon to suggest that those responsible ought to start planning immediately for another Glyndebourne season here,’ asserted the Liverpool Daily Echo. In the same newspaper Moran Caplat, then General Director of Glyndebourne, said: ‘After the reception we have had here, I assure you we should like to come back to Liverpool someday – but I have no idea when that would be possible.’
In the event, despite a number of invitations between 1957–1959, a return visit never quite happened, mainly due to practical issues around the availability of venues, repertoire and singers. But Glyndebourne didn’t forget its warm welcome in Liverpool and when it launched the Glyndebourne Tour in 1968, the city was among the first destinations, hosted once again at the Royal Court. It returned there in 1969, 1971 and 1972.
In 1979 Glyndebourne made its first visit to the Empire Theatre, with productions of Così fan tutte, Fidelio and La fedeltà premiata.
Now, in 2019, Glyndebourne is delighted to be making another return to this great city and its first visit to the historic Empire Theatre in 40 years.
Written by Kate Harvey, Glyndebourne’s Press Manager
Image credits: Liverpool programmes from the Glyndebourne archive.