The two great passions in John Christie’s life were opera and a beautiful young soprano, Audrey Mildmay, with whom he was completely smitten. Together with his formidable drive, they fuelled what many first saw as a monumental folly in the South Downs. Glyndebourne was triumphantly born amidst stiff manhattans, rolling lawns and the sound of sheep from across the HaHa. It was to become revered the world over.
Such was the scale of the enterprise that love alone was not enough. When a famous violinist was fogged in overnight in Eastbourne, Christie first heard of a group of refugees for whom life in Nazi Germany had become impossible. Perhaps they could help deliver Christie’s vision of the sublime – assuming of course they would be willing to cast Audrey as the leading light.
David Hare’s new play, first seen at Hampstead Theatre, is the story of an intense love affair and the unrelenting search for artistic excellence in the face of searing scrutiny, sacrifice and the impending Second World War.