Julian Philips

The Yellow Sofa

15 October - 30 November 2012
Tour 2012

This is a story of love and loss, of betrayal and deception, of sex and a city, of wounded pride and attempted retribution – of plumply inviting sofa cushions. 

Godofredo is naturally indolent, adequately successful in his working life and quite happy with his seemingly comfortable marriage to Ludovina. When he discovers her in an extremely compromising position on his favourite yellow sofa with his business partner Machado, he doesn’t know how to react but knows he must do something. His honour has been off ended, he will have to challenge Machado to a duel, but he would much prefer life to return to normal. 

A new opera written specially for Glyndebourne by our first Composer-in-Residence Julian Philips, with a text by Edward Kemp, it is based on a short story by Eça de Queirós. Writing about Lisbon’s bourgeois society towards the end of the 19th century, Queirós is a shrewd observer of the human condition and writes with an intriguing mix of gentle satire and wry humour. All of this is reflected in the music, which also draws on the rich tradition of Portuguese folk song. 

An original Glyndebourne commission, first presented as part of the Jerwood Chorus Development Scheme during the 2009 Festival, the cast features past and present members of the Glyndebourne Chorus.

"Not to be missed." Rated four stars by The Times.

Godofredo Alves runs a small business in Lisbon in the last decades of the 19th century. His life is ordered and well-managed, its only inexplicable feature is the yellow sofa that he once bought his wife, Ludovina.

One day in summer, Godofredo’s business partner, Machado, leaves work early; he encourages Godofredo to do the same, go off to see a show, enjoy himself. After Machado has left, Godofredo realises that he and Ludovina have forgotten their wedding anniversary. He races home and finds Ludovina and Machado in a compromising position upon the yellow sofa. Machado leaves, Godofredo seeks a explanation from Ludovina, and when she cannot provide one, he packs her off to stay with her father.

Neto, Ludovina’s father, comes to see Godofredo. Neto negotiates a spell out of the city beside the sea for himself, Ludovina and her sister Teresa until the affair blows over.

Meanwhile Godofredo, alone with the yellow sofa, plans how to get retribution for his wounded honour. He confronts Machado, insisting that one of them must die. Machado laughs off Godofredo’s plan.

Godofredo takes stock with the yellow sofa. He turns for support to his friends Carvalho and Medeiros. Neither is overly enthusiastic about Godofredo’s plan, but in the name of honour they agree to act as his seconds.

In a darkened room Godofredo waits as Carvalho and Medeiros discuss the situation with Machado’s second, Nunes Vidal. His torment grows.

Finally the seconds emerge with the solution.

After the summer is over, Godofredo and Ludovina meet by chance outside the opera house.

Words: Edward Kemp

Creative team

Conductor Gareth Hancock
Director Frederic Wake-Walker
Designer Kitty Callister
Lighting Designer Andrew May


Amarela Lauren Easton
Godofredo Alves Michael Wallace
Machado Andrew Dickinson
Ludovina (Lulu) Gabriela Iştoc
Margarida Sioned Gwen Davies
Neto Alexander Robin Baker
Teresa Charlotte Beament
Carvalho Benjamin Cahn
Medeiros Frederick Long
Nunes Vidal Gareth Huw John

The Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra

2012 Production
The Yellow Sofa 2012. Photo: Robert Workman
The Yellow Sofa 2012. Photo: Robert Workman
The Yellow Sofa 2012. Photo: Robert Workman
The Yellow Sofa 2012. Photo: Robert Workman
The Yellow Sofa 2012. Photo: Robert Workman
The Yellow Sofa 2012. Photo: Robert Workman
The Yellow Sofa 2012. Photo: Robert Workman
The Yellow Sofa 2012. Photo: Robert Workman
The Yellow Sofa 2012. Photo: Robert Workman


What a superb treat this is ! The music is joyous, the chamber group behind the performers in perfect balance with them and the cast - what is there to say other than their delight in performing the piece matched ours in seeing it. This deserves a much wider audience.

I think it was helpful to have read the programme notes beforehand and I loved everything about this production.

More like this please!

I was surprised and really delighted by this piece! It was modern but very approachable and easy to enjoy. The music,acting and singing were superb. I hope Glynebourne does it again soon and maybe another of the composer's works?

Not sure what to expect, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Would happily see "The Yellow Sofa" again and will recommend it to friends. Parts were very Britten-like. Relieved I'd read synopsis and background beforehand. Supertitles would be helpful. Q&A with conductor and director afterwards was very informative, but would have benefited from use of radio mike. Overhead "house lights" rather in one's face before they were dimmed. A more indirect house lighting would have worked better for me.

An enjoyable evening, probably needs to be seen more than once to get full value from music and the detailed production. Also enjoyed the question and answer session with the Directors, which gave a valued insight into the development and ideas behind the opera. Recommnended.

My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed the production on many levels. It was both hilarious and touching and the direction wonderfully inventive. I like a tune normally but the music supported the emotion of the piece so beautifully my normal reservations were completely over turned. I really liked the opportunity to ask questions at the end and found the answers both informative and illuminating.

What a charming piece! Great singing, well-staged and wonderful acting from the entire cast. Highlights for me were Frederick Long, the Fado pieces by Lauren Easton and the moving duet of reconciliation. Thank you, Glyndebourne, for giving us something rather different this year.

Having seen the performance of The Yellow Sofa in the Jerwood Studio and enjoying it so much, I look forward to the next performance, perhaps in the main auditorium.

I was not quite sure whether I was going to enjoy the Yellow Sofa to start with, but was really glad I went to see it. The music was good and the voices were just wonderful to listen to. The size of the Jerwood studio was ideal because it gave the opera a very real and intimate feel, it made one feel as if one were part of it all. The only negative part of the evening was the seating. I found the seats were slightly too close together and not very comfortable to sit on.

We were charmed by The Yellow Sofa, and all who took part. The haunting music with its Portuguese guitar and rhythms was beautifully sung by a cast totally immersed in the opera. Great choreography! The intimate Jerwood Studio was the perfect place to be part of the passions and humour of the evening. Thank you very much for all the hard work that goes into producing such a fresh, funny and touching piece of work.

The Yellow Sofa pushed a comfort boundary for us with being a modern opera. Most enjoyable and very pleased we came. A very polished performance, of exactly the right length, which worked well in the small theatre. Thank you.

The Yellow Sofa pushed a comfort boundary for us with being a modern opera. Most enjoyable and very pleased we came. A very polished performance, of exactly the right length, which worked well in the small theatre. Thank you.

Fantastic evening. Beautiful singing and great acting. Thoroughly enjoyed the performance. Would recommend and see it come again

This is a lovely opera and the performance on Monday 15th October was brilliant. The blend of the Fado folk music with modern styles is very effective. I particularly enjoyed the accompaniment of the Double Bass, Guitar and Portugese Guitar to the Fado music. The opera is full of life, with much humour but also pathos. The music of the reconciliation at the end is very moving. I would put this opera on a par with Britten. Indeed, it reminded me of his Canticles at times. Surely this gem will enter the operatic mainstream.

Just loved it! Went to the pre-performance talk, which I'm sure added to my enjoyment, but I would still have enjoyed it so much that were it not for the fact that I absolutely have to get a whole load of things ready for Thursday I would try to see it again on Wednesday evening.

Congratulations to everyone who helped make it such a success.

Only Michael Wallace as Godofredo remains from the 2009 cast. That run of three performances was done in the round with the audience on three sides of the stage. I saw it from each of the three seating areas. This Summer the production was revised with the audience more conventionally placed in front. The current revival is similar to the 2012 Summer one but with some subtle changes. I guess having the audience on one side will make it easier to tour. Lauren Easton who sang Magdalene in Glyndebourne's Meistersinger makes a wonderful Yellow Sofa and her Portuguese sounds very authentic in the material based on urban folk songs. All the other parts are well cast and yet again I found the 75 minutes flew by. Nice to see all the Glyndebourne performances sold out as is the one at ROH. Word seems to have spread.

Excellent evening full of fun, wonderful music. The Yellow Sofa is a must this Autumn.

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