Interview with Jenny Mark-Bell
Jenny Mark-Bell, Editor of Sussex Life tells us why she thinks the G<30 programme is a good thing and what it has meant to her.
Opera can be a daunting experience for some people and especially for younger audiences, how did you first develop a taste for opera?
My first opera was The Magic Flute. I think I was about seven, so rather young for such a complicated story. I can’t imagine I understood a great deal, but I was transfixed. Rather embarrassingly, my brother and I staged the opera afterwards for the delectation of our family, using our toys and a cassette recording. As I remember, the role of the Queen of the Night was played to great effect by a cat.
Later, I took singing lessons with a wonderful lady in her nineties called Isabel Wybergh, who had actually performed in the chorus at Glyndebourne in her younger days. I sang in a few concerts and competitions but swiftly realised what little talent I had lay in appreciating the talent of others! One of my teenage duet partners and a close friend, Rosie Bell, now works as an opera singer.
Although I still adore Mozart, seeing a production of Aida at L’Arena di Verona whilst I was living in Italy persuaded me to branch out. I’ve been a member of the <30s scheme for a few years now and my operatic tastes are broader as a result.
What do you think are the common misconceptions about ‘going to the opera’?
I think there’s a misconception that opera’s a fusty art form, all disapproving scholars in pince-nez poring over the libretto. Quite apart from what happens on stage, going to the opera is a fantastic social occasion. And I’ve never once seen anyone in pince-nez.
People enjoy opera at any age but many younger people seem unsure thinking opera is not for them it’s for older generations. What would you say to people in their twenties who are unsure about whether they will like opera?
I would ask them if they enjoy a good story. Opera combines sublime tunes and tremendous feats of musicality with some ripping yarns. Whether it’s Don Giovanni emerging from the Inferno or Hansel and Gretel vanquishing the witch, there’s something for anyone with a taste for drama. Glyndebourne is also a good excuse to get dressed up in all your finery and admire everyone else in theirs. As an opportunity for people-watching, it could hardly be bettered.
As a Glyndebourne Under 30s member, what appeals to you about this free membership scheme?
Sadly, my membership of the scheme ends this year, but I’ll always be grateful for it. It has broadened my taste and introduced me to a true British institution. Because tickets are so sought-after and the most well-known operas sell out quickly, I’ve enjoyed productions I probably wouldn’t have known about if they hadn’t been part of the Festival.
Glyndebourne Festival is renowned the world over and is quite different to other British music festivals. What has your experience been of Glyndebourne as a summer festival?
Some of my favourite ‘British summer’ moments have been at Glyndebourne. It’s so utterly idiosyncratic. I’ve been to Glastonbury and I’ve been to Glyndebourne, and I can honestly say they have more in common than you would think. There is a real sense of community, of kinship with your fellow audience. Because we all share the sense of occasion, there’s the most tremendous atmosphere. And of course, where else would you be able to watch sheep grazing in the interval?!
If you could describe to other twenty-somethings what you love about opera in only ten words, what would you say?
They’re gripping stories with soundtracks to make the heart soar.
And finally, why do you think it’s important to bring a new generation of opera lovers to the art form?
Schemes like this are vital to keep the arts alive. Access to ‘high’ art is easy now, with the great performances instantly downloadable, but nothing beats a live performance. It is vital that arts organisations like Glyndebourne continue to impassion younger audiences. Not only does it make good commercial sense, it’s also instrumental in inspiring a new generation of composers and musicians – important stuff.
How to join Glyndebourne<30
Do you already have an online account with us? Please login, update your account and tick the Under 30s box.
New to glyndebourne.com? Please register your details and tick the Under 30s box.
When joining Glyndebourne<30 you will be asked to confirm your date of birth.
Please note that you may be asked to provide proof of age before entering the auditorium with an <30 ticket.
Glyndebourne<30 is supported by our New Generation Programme.