Friday, June 6, 2014

Glyndebourne: Folie a Deux or Menage a Trois?

photo of Glyndebourne by Wolfiewolf
George Christie was the son John Christie who founded the Glyndebourne festival. A recent Times obit (“George Christie Dies at 79;  Steward of His Family's Opera Legacy,” NYT, 5/13/14), described how George “inherited the quixotic, patrician yet endearingly provincial cottage industry his father created...and squired it to modern, international renown.” The article goes on to comment on George’s “worldly pragmatism that was a conspicuous counterweight to his family’s eccentricity, for even by the standards of English oddity, the Christies gave him much to counter.” And what did this oddity consist of? To some extent it was his father’s preternatural attachment to his mother, a singer for whom the one time Eton master, had built the opera house, on the two thousand acre estate he’d inherited. But John Christie was not only content in sharing and promoting his wife’s passion. The Times describes how the opera house was “born of a marital sympathy seemingly unrivaled in the annals of matrimony.” The obit goes on to relate how when on their honeymoon in Salzburg, Mrs. Christie required an appendectomy, she woke up to find that her husband had had one too. Plainly John Christie was demonstrating a mutant form of couvade, the anthropological term for males in certain cultures who experience sympathetic symptoms of pregnancy. John Christie himself died in l962 so he never had the chance to read Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself, the Melody Beattie bestseller published in l986. And it’s unlikely that reading such a book would have had any effect on either him or his wife. There is another term from the annals of psychology which describes George Christie’s parents. They were a charming folie a deux whose legacy was turned into a creative ménage a trois.

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