The performance itself was excellent. The theatre was a bit too hot, and to call the plot minimal would be generous. But the music is Strauss in his gloriously lush mood (in 1942!), and the cast and orchestra were very strong. I doubt I'll ever see the opera again in the theatre (unless someone I really like is in it), but I could be tempted by the CD. I enjoyed it, but with heat and tiredness I did have to keep myself awake at times in a way that I wouldn't with something that was more of a genuine drama.
The venue is just bizarre. The event is a bit more than a decade old, and on a much smaller scale than Glyndebourne, which really is an opera company. Grange Park, to be honest, is an entertainment company, at which the entertainment happens to be some rather good opera. Our tickets were £150 each (we got them for £35), which is what you'll pay for the best seats for Figaro at Covent Garden in one of their more expensive productions. You can bring your own picnic for the 90 minute interval, or buy one, or eat in the restaurant. The food is no doubt competent, but the menus were not exciting. The pavilion in which we ate our picnic (provided by a member of the party) would have been £95 to hire had we been paying. The clientele are the London and Oxfordshire - Hampshire types who like a jolly evening out but have neither the interest nor time to go to Glyndebourne. The setting is fascinating, a brick stately home wrecked (long ago) by horrific cladding to turn it into a Greek temple, and pretty much a derelict shell. The theatre (designed by David Lloyd Jones) has been installed in the former ballroom, which an orangery before that. It's cleverly done, keeping the dilapidated sense of the place.
It was a fascinating evening; the picnic was good, our champagne copious, and the music was high quality, but it was ultimately a gimmick, because it didn't feel as if it were really about the music. It's a place for the rich to come and play. There is a heavy emphasis on raising funds through sponsorship. One spends little time in the theatre itself and there's none of that buzz of excitement at being in the crowd at a theatre and its corridors just before the performance or during the interval. I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening and I'd go again at the price I paid, but I never really felt the evening was about the opera, about art. It was about money and spending it on having a jolly good time.
Elsewhere on the opera front, I have failed to get my act together for tickets to Massenet's Manon and will have to look out for returns. And ENO is doing Faust in the Autumn. I do wish they wouldn't "[update] the story's classic setting to a more contemporary world at war", but I've never seen it live, and I can shut my eyes if it is really awful.
Meanwhile, I am utterly exhausted - punch-drunk with it to the extent I didn't drive this morning. It is my fault, I may not go to bed particularly late, but I never, ever, having lost sleep manage to get myself to bed early.