Eastbourne Arts Circle hears tales of legendary voices at Glyndebourne

Glyndebourne Opera House
Glyndebourne Opera House

When Elizabeth Muir Lewis became Chairman of the Friends of the Towner she led a move to enlarge the mandate of that organisation to include arts other than painting and sculpture.

Thus FOTT became EAC, the Eastbourne Arts Circle. Since that change, financial assistance to the Towner Art Gallery has in no way diminished: quite the contrary ! But in addition there have been successful talks on (for example) music as well as aspects of art history. Outside lecturers have drawn good audiences, and more are planned. Elizabeth at last conceded that the time had come for her to give a talk about her own experience at Glyndebourne, and on the afternoon of Sunday March 20in the Birley Centre she did so. Her many listeners were delighted as she dealt with the remarkable history of that opera-house, right from the day when John Christie, having decided to build an opera-house in the grounds of his palatial mansion near Ringmer, fell hopelessly in love with soprano Audrey Mildmay.

The war years, it seems, enabled Glyndebourne to welcome some eminent emigré German musicians and directors: Karl Ebert, Peter Gellhorn and Fritz Busch spring to mind. Elizabeth touched on a number of great singers associated with that idyllic place: Pavarotti was one.

She talked about the touring season which takes place after the main programme; and about the development of an education department which spreads a love of opera to young people.

Filmed excerpts from The Return of Ulysses and a recording of the lovely final duet of The Coronation of Poppea illustrated her brief discourse on Baroque opera, which had been introduced to Glyndebourne by RaymondLeppard.

Great singers Ben Luxon, Janet Baker and Richard Lewis were featured. Finally Elizabeth agreed to play a recording of her own performance of Vilia, the main soprano aria from The Merry Widow.

Her perfectly-produced top note brought forth a well-deserved burst of applause.

Elizabeth was thanked by university art historian Helen Rufus Ward, who announced that a future presentation by EAC would bring an illustrated programme by Robin Gregory on June 12th about the great tunes in Puccini and

Lehàr.