Iford Manor - If you Ever Get the Chance
Iford Manor is the venue for a wonderful mini summer arts series each year.
My steely English reserve was very nearly breached once upon a time, dear reader. It was my first visit to Iford Manor in Wiltshire to attend an opera. I enjoy Handel operas and was intrigued by the idea of the venue. Each year Iford Arts puts on a summer series of concerts and special events in the Peto garden of Iford. The operas are performed outdoors in a small cloister in the garden. Ninety lucky people sit around the cloister and the singers and musicians are squeezed inside. Intimate is the word.
On the first visit, young Mrs Tweed and I arrived on a beautiful July evening. The house and gardens are accessed by small winding roads down a steep valley, which that day were bathed in the late sun of the day. It felt pretty magical before we parked.
We picnicked on the grass before the performance, with the lovely house behind us and other attendees scattered around the garden clicking glasses and nibbling Scotch eggs.
In due time, we assembled for the performance. Two rows of seats around the cloister. That time it was Ariodante by the superb Early Opera Company. The singers took their positions and we were so close I could have shook their hands. The musicians were at one end and they launched into the overture, then the singers began. What with the beauty of the music and the stillness of a beautiful English summer's evening with the sun shining into the cloister, this pig's upper lip almost softened. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. We've returned a few more times and, like a junkie, I'm looking for the hit I achieved that first time.
The Early Opera Company have done a few seasons at Iford and they're back again this year performing Handel's Rodelinda. Dates are July the 29th and 30th and August 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 9th - hurry, there might be some tickets left.