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REVIEW: Paul Lewis @ Glyndebourne Opera House, 14/5/17

The Verse’s Lou Clement headed over to majestic Glyndebourne Opera House to catch the pianist Paul Lewis perform some classics, as part of the Brighton Festival, on the 14th May.

Glyndebourne is located a couple of miles from it’s more well-known neighbour Lewes. I’m attending the opera house which is located on expansive grounds in the village. The event is part of the Brighton Festival and is a chance to see pianist Paul Lewis perform in the theatre which usually hosts a season of highly-regarded opera. The grounds are open for picnics ahead of the performance, a tradition I understand. 

Driving through the village it somehow feels like stepping back in time we pass a foundry, the tea rooms and then follow a long drive to the venue. We park and are directed to the area for picnics. The grounds are nothing short of spectacular and are immaculate. They are almost too ordered. They reflect a diligent care and management over wild landscapes. A meandering river is filled with hundreds of lilies, fish jump from its surface and a willow tree casts shadows across the river. The grounds are in a shallow valley and on either side newly born lambs follow their mothers around. It is idyllic. 

The opera house is a calm and airy, the reception areas are filled with various artist’s work; for the most park depicting local scenes of the South Downs, and all for sale. We are sat in the stalls and what is noticeable is the design of the place. The stalls, the balconies, the floor and walls are made of carved wood, polished to within an inch of its life. The grand piano looks lonely on the shallow, curtained stage. However, as the performance continues I realise there are two instruments – the furniture is like one giant piece of percussion, reflecting and filleting the notes of music across the ears of thousand attendees. 

Paul Lewis is slight but not diminutive. As he begins to play Beethoven, I realise that this is going to be quite a performance. He doesn’t just play with his fingers or hands but is moving with every fibre of his body. Within the perfectly ornamented setting, in the heart of the Sussex countryside is music made to stir, to evoke emotions and to make your mind dance. I’m a fan.

In the break, we eat M&S biscuits and wander through the formal gardens, where we question the size of the head of a large sculpture, we wander closer, it’s a Henry Moore. The second half continued with Chopin, the minute waltz was superb, I almost held my breathe as I listened and it fired the imagination; the glitz of a ballroom is not far from my thoughts. 

We spent some time sitting in the sun afterwards, soaking up the atmosphere. A wonderful Sunday afternoon out, I hope they open for the festival again.

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