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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 June, 2004, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Opera fascinates festival fans  
By Tom Bishop
BBC News Online at Glastonbury

The Valkyries descended on Glastonbury on Sunday as the English National Opera roused tired festival-goers with a groundbreaking performance.

Bound up: The English National Opera performs Wagner at Glastonbury
It was the first time opera had been performed at the festival, with thousands of fascinated revellers gathering in front of the main Pyramid stage for the event.

Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries tells of the mythical women who carried dead heroes to heavenly Valhalla.

Storm clouds gathered overhead on Sunday, enhancing the opera's tense atmosphere as Brunnhilde is hunted down.

The 75-minute long extract opened with the section of the opera familiar to fans of the film Apocalypse Now, its lyrics sung in English and subtitled at the side of the stage to make it widely accessible.

The Valkyries were played with relish by the ENO singers, flame-haired and dressed in black, as members of the orchestra behind them were clearly enjoying the unique experience.

As each singer pretended to mount a fallen hero - portrayed by men dressed in muscle vests, silver hats and gags - the delicious melodrama received a rapturous reception from the varied audience.

"It was really cool," said 16-year-old Kathie Woo from north London. "I wasn't really following the story, I just liked looking at the singers - they had real presence."

An orchestra's eye view of the festival
"It has been a good way to start the day," added Kieran Moodley, 16, from north east London.

"It would make me consider going to see a full opera, if it wasn't normally so expensive."

"Now I would definitely go to the opera if someone else bought me a ticket," agreed friend Sophie Gowen, 15, also from north London.

Hayden Tomlins, 22, from Liverpool, said: "I have seen a few operas in the past, but never in a field. It was great, really special."

"It was a bit confusing to have them sing in English while keeping all the original German names," said Rachael Brown, 20, from Gloucester, "but the subtitles really helped us understand the lyrics."  

Opera fan Kerry Manson, 43, from Liverpool, felt the Glastonbury production was "fantastic".

"They adapted it to appeal to people of all ages," she said. "It was a great introduction to opera for the novice."

Hannah Fleming, 32, from Bath, said: "It just totally fitted in with Glastonbury - it was an innovative celebration of music and culture.

"The men with the silver hats would have looked out of place anywhere else in the world, but not here."



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