Bill Turnbull interview

Bill Turnbull, journalist and award winning BBC host and presenter tells us what being an Associate Member means to him and his penchant for Britten.

I saw my first opera in Salzburg at the age of 15: Fidelio, with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan. I was a paying guest with a family, brushing up on my German in preparation for ‘O’-levels. A friend of theirs, a “gnaedige Frau”, decided that a visit to the Mozartfest was a vital part of my education; so off we went to Austria for a night that was of course, unforgettable.

Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to see opera in Paris, New York, Vienna, and of course at Glyndebourne. What always amazes me is the splendour of the production; the powerful union of orchestral music, virtuoso singing and acting, large casts and spectacular sets. In other words, opera delivers the fundamentals of almost every other performing art and adds it own touch of magic.

I was enchanted by the Glyndebourne experience when I was first taken by a generous neighbour twelve years ago. It’s not just the music, but everything about the place – the wonderful gardens, picnics on the lawn, dressing up for the occasion, and the marvellous acoustics of the auditorium. I always think it’s like going on holiday for a day.

It’s always good to get advance notice of productions, and like everyone else we make plans months in advance through the Members’ booking system. It’s as important as booking a trip abroad.

Billy Budd has always stayed with me as the story is so tragic – it’s not much of a moral tale, though. Bright willing young man does the best he can and suffers tragic consequences as a result. Most unfair, but a wonderful opera. I was surprised and delighted by Albert Herring, which is entirely opposite in mood – an operatic farce, and fun. The one that has escaped me at Glyndebourne which I’d love to see is Peter Grimes. One day, I hope.

Glyndebourne in 10 words? An experience of the very best of opera and England. Everyone should enjoy it at least once in their life.