GARDENS ILLUSTRATED presents a selection of gardens hosting impressive operas this summer.
Opera in the great outdoors is a real summer spectacle, especially when the setting is a top-class garden. The thought of hampers full of delicious food, a generous helping of charming company and the promise of a high quality performance is difficult to beat – and then there's the opportunity to explore the evening’s unique setting
Garsington Opera at Wormsley (new venue)
Buckinghamshire HP14 3YG
Aim to arrive in the late afternoon so your party have time to stroll towards the lake before making the most of the beautiful views across the deer park and the famous cricket pitch. Wormsley, the new venue for this event, is home to a historic walled garden too. The evening will include a long dinner interval when guests can wander the grounds and enjoy their picnics or feast in the marquees. This year, the scheduled performances include Vivaldi’s La verità in cimento; Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia. (Meals and or picnics must be ordered before the evening).
East Sussex BN8 5UU
The gardens are open from 3pm on the days of performances (2pm on Sundays) so that guests have a chance to explore them. The long grass of the orchard is a haven for bee orchids (Ophrys apifera) and a colony of them live close to the gardeners’ hut. Pheasants, stoats and weasels are also often spotted in the grounds. Visitors are invited to bring rugs and picnic tables for their home-made meals but there are also several restaurants on site. Thanks to a world-class opera house that seats 1,200 people, Glyndebourne offers one of the best opera-going experiences. This summer, they will host Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, a new production of Handel's Rinaldo and revivals of Don Giovanni, L'elisir d'amore, Rusalka and The Turn of the Screw.
Enjoy sublime surroundings at Iford
Wiltshire BA15 2BA
Iford Manor is an atmospheric venue for hosting opera and jazz evenings. The Italian-style gardens are set in the steep hillside courtesy of renowned architect-come-garden designer Harold Peto who created the garden at the start of the 20th century. Guests have spectacular views of the valley and can picnic in the peace of Peto's garden before the curtain goes up. Throughout the performance the sweet scent of daylily and naturalised Martagon lilies promises to remind you of the unique backdrop. This summer, Iford Arts will put on three performances: Hansel & Gretel with CHROMA Chamber Ensemble, Don Giovanni with The Orchestra of the Swan and Rodelinda with The Early Opera Company Orchestra.
Opera Holland Park
London W8 7RX
020 7361 3570
Despite its location in central London, Holland Park is a peaceful and romantic place to be on a summer evening. The northern part of its 54 acres is semi-wild woodland, while the part around Holland House has several more formal garden areas. Guests should stroll through the famous orangery and the Japanese garden before making their way to Holland Park Theatre, home to Opera Holland Park for an evening of high- quality performances including Don Pasquale, L'amico Fritz, Le nozze di Figaro and La rondine. (See website for other operas). There are various picnic options that visitors can pre-order or, alternatively, guests can bring their own.
A magical evening at West Green House
West Green House Gardens
Hampshire RG27 8JB
01252 844 611
West Green House boasts beautiful grounds that make for a remarkable atmosphere. Guests are invited to wander round the gardens in the early evening before the curtains rise at 7pm. A classically inspired lake takes centre stage in front of several pavilions and a flowered walled garden leads up to the theatre itself. Chairs and tables fill the orangery and conservatories for guests to dine after the first part of the performance. This year, performances include Don Giovanni and The Merry Widow.
Garden Opera Company
020 7241 3563
The Garden Opera Company delivers opera across the country throughout the year. It aims to perform a high quality, full-length opera in English, 30 times between January and October 2011. Performance venues include Herstmonceux Castle, Mannington Hall, Goodnestone Park Gardens among other stunning gardens. This season's performances alternate between La Traviata and I Pagliacci & Impresario. Check the website for details of performance and location.