Tenor jumps in helicopter to save Glyndebourne opera with ‘minutes to spare’ amid train havoc

23 June 2022, 16:30

Tenor jumps in helicopter to save The Wreckers at Glyndebourne
Tenor jumps in helicopter to save The Wreckers at Glyndebourne. Picture: Getty/Courtesy of Glyndebourne

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The opera singer touched down with just minutes to spare before Glyndebourne’s production of Ethel Smyth’s ‘The Wreckers’.

A Welsh tenor saved the day after the lead actor and his understudy both fell ill, ahead of a production of Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers at Glyndebourne opera festival.

Tenor Adam Gilbert, an associate artist with the Welsh National Opera, got the call at midday on Tuesday ahead of the evening’s production, and arrived at Glyndebourne by helicopter with just minutes to spare.

“I certainly didn’t expect a call at all,” Gilbert told Classic FM, “But as soon as [Glyndebourne’s Head of Planning and Company Management] Ian Jackson popped up on my phone I sensed something was up!”

Glyndebourne asked if he could “drop everything and get on my way” to the opera house, to fill in for the role of Marc. The opera house being some 280 miles (450km) away from west Wales, in East Sussex, time was short for Gilbert.

With UK-wide train strikes taking the railways out of action, he got in the car and made it to Bristol, where the opera house called him to say a helicopter would be waiting for him in Bath.

Read more: Opera ‘saved’ by 28-year-old tenor as star performer falls ill during Tosca performance

“I was far more concerned about the logistics of getting there as it’s so far away and also thinking what to do with my son, who I’d promised to take to see the seals that afternoon.

“I don’t think it really set in about what was going to happen until I got in the helicopter and I was in someone else’s hands,” Gilbert said, adding: “The pilot Alex was fantastic!”

Gilbert had rehearsed with the cast in April, but hadn’t expected to be called up, given tenor Rodrigo Porras Garulo was playing the role of Marc, and had an understudy.

Asked how much time he had to vocally prepare, Gilbert said “really not long at all”, adding: “Once we landed I rushed into the theatre, had half a sandwich, a five minute warm up and quick change into my suit... I met the conductor Robin [Ticciati] in the hallway who said ‘let’s set sail together’ and I thought that was an excellent comment and really summed it all up.”

Gilbert added that the first act was already underway, with Garulo pushing through until his replacement arrived.

The Welsh tenor added: “It was a fantastic experience and one which brought everyone together to achieve it. I felt so much support from everyone there – audience, orchestra, conductor, cast on stage, backstage team and management. A real collaboration and after the last two years a real honour to be part of.”