Glyndebourne was the highlight of our summer, and like many enthusiasts, we were regulars at the annual winter week-end courses held in the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill. These were run by the Southern Opera and Ballet Society (SOBS) as a preparation for the forthcoming season with its scheduled programme of operas to be held at the Sussex venue.
Always well attended, these sessions were mentored by professional artists and musicians, while the mixture of appreciative amateur music-lovers from various walks of life learned much as we enjoyed ourselves during the two days of the course. The master classes proved invaluable. Everyone felt better able to appreciate the final stage production, as well as getting a taster of what was to come through an insight into the hard work and discipline that brings an opera to life on the stage.
In the summer of 1982 we eagerly anticipated our visit to see Orfeo ed Euridice with Dame Janet Baker in the title role. It would prove an unforgettable evening.
After the performance, with tears still streaming down my cheeks, my husband and I descended the stairs. As we were emerging through the doorway at the bottom, we encountered our old friend Miron Grindea, cognoscente of the art world and friend of many who inhabited it. We all made our way into the foyer.
Upon seeing my tears Miron demanded ‘What is the matter?’
‘That performance…it was so wonderful…I can’t stop crying…’
Whereupon, grabbing my hand Miron said, ‘Follow me…’
I did, and leaving a vaguely surprised husband, found myself backstage picking my way in a long evening dress and high heels through a bewildering profusion of scenery, props and people; all of whom appeared to be intent on what they were doing and where they were going. Hitching my skirt with one hand and watching where I put my feet, I followed the tousle-headed figure gesticulating wildly for me to follow and keep up with him.
It happened in a trice; the object of our back-stage perambulation appeared at a dressing-room door. Dame Janet Baker stood for a moment framed by the doorway and dressed in a flowing silk robe embellished with red flowers. Still in make-up, she was at once besieged and engaged in conversation by an excited Miron.
Whatever he said galvanised the world famous diva and with a swift turn she bore down on me, her robe billowing, her arms outstretched as she said, ‘Oh you darling…’ and clasped me in a spontaneous hug.
The memory remains, a golden moment, one among many in the treasure chest of this octogenarian.