Opera and Gardens



Our next speaker was Lynne Plummer who introduced herself as Sybil’s friend who blathers on about music. The talk that followed was anything but blather and gave us an idea of “Behind the Scenes at the Opera”. Lynne had worked at Covent Garden as a researcher producing “Talking Notes” for people whose sight was impaired. This involved meeting the folk behind the scenes and so as the talk unfolded we were able to see what an extraordinary job these people did.

The format of the talk was to hear a clip of an interview, followed by part of an operatic aria and then Lynne would elaborate on the interview.

We heard from Conductors, Wig Makers, Costume department, Production managers amongst others. We learnt how scale models are built of the sets so that any problems can be ironed out before the full scale set is built and how sloping stages can present problems for opera singers who often have difficulty as special shoes have to be worn to prevent them from slipping.

The Costume department must have been a fascinating place to visit and to see how the various distressed effects are created. The starting material has to be of the best quality to ensure that the costume will stand up to the rigours of many performances but it also has to flow correctly so that it looks good on stage. Also fabrics have to be dyed and this is a department in itself. The wigs that performers wear are made from Eastern European hair and each strand of hair is put on separately.

While all this work is going on behind the scenes the Chorus are busy rehearsing often for three hours in the morning and afternoon and the rehearsal schedule can include 2 or 3 different works at the same time. Another very important consideration is the set lighting which can produce very dramatic effects but has to be perfect as performers don’t want to be blinded by extraneous lighting

A feature that all the operas have in common is a book in which the music is written on one side of the page and the movements are written in pencil on the other side. This book is kept forever.

Thank you Lynne for a very different talk and showing us opera in a new light.


It was a great pleasure to see Anthea Guthrie in Tuesday Group once again. Anthea is one of the highest awarded garden designers in the UK having won six gold medals from the RHS and exhibited at Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows. She is also a very experienced cruise ship speaker and botanical guide.

Her talk took us to many places around the world from the Caribbean to the Falklands and from Spain to Brazil.

Accompanied by beautiful photographs on the big screen the talk began with a whacky statue in Lisbon followed by Menorca and Amsterdam where small gardens were enhanced by pots of plants spilling out onto the streets for all to enjoy.

In Spain we saw the largest palm tree as well as badly managed water features that were green whereas in contrast Villa Carlotta in Italy demonstrated how to get a water feature right.

The famous fountains in the Peterhof Palace in St Petersburg showed continually running water which was piped in from 15 kilometres away.

Whilst in Russia we saw “dachas” that are seasonal or second homes for city dwellers. These could be a shack or a cottage but were in colonies with garden plots around your neighborhood as recreational getaways for the purpose of growing food in the small gardens. These were not unlike our allotments.

We also saw formal gardens in Sweden as well as Summer Houses with grass roofs, papyrus in Egypt and cacti in Lanzarote. Busy Lizzies grew in profusion in the shade in Brazil whilst the only proper garden to be seen in the Falklands was in the Governor’s House.

During the whistle stop tour Anthea dropped in a couple of tips for our gardens such as ‘make friends with foliage when you choose your plants’ and if undecided about what will grow well in your garden – take a stroll around your neighborhood to get some ideas.

She also suggested planting bulbs under rose bushes that will flower when the roses are just twigs.

Our thanks once again to Anthea for taking us on this floral tour of the world in about 45 minutes