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Glyndebourne - our competition winner tells all

Stephen Toplis reports from the front line on an unforgettable day at the opera

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Stephen Toplis at Glyndebourne

Our recent WhatsOnStage Opera competition found a worthy winner in Stephen Toplis. Here's his report on the day.

'Thank you for the fantastic opportunity to visit Glyndebourne and see Don Giovanni. I was thrilled to win the Twitter competition because I never win anything!

'I rushed to the Ben Sherman shop to buy a bow tie and Marks & Spencer for picnic food. My friend already had a black tie because he goes to the Henley Regatta and other posh events.

'The weather was beautiful so we set off at 1pm to get there for the gardens opening at 2pm. It took just one hour from door to door and the journey was lovely; passing through beautiful countryside we stopped off to buy cherries from local sellers.

A day to remember

'When we arrived at Glyndebourne the parking was very organised and easy. We sat for ten minutes people-watching and noticed that all the gentlemen were dressed in black tie (and the ladies in cocktail dresses) so we were glad we were too. I went to the box office and was given two tickets for a Glyndebourne Box and a free programme. It made me feel really special.

'We decided to walk around the grounds and gardens, have a beer and take in the atmosphere. The weather was beautiful with full sun and very warm. The only sounds were hushed voices and the odd bleating sheep! Most people had put their chairs and table out for a picnic during the 90 minute interval. We decided to sit on the lawn with ours and because it was very safe and secure we spread the blanket out left our picnic in the cool bag.

'I could have sat there forever'

'At 3:45pm we went to find our seats. What a surprise when we were seated in a private box with a perfect, central view of the stage.

'The auditorium is beautiful: not a bad seat in the house and stunning acoustics. The first half of Don Giovanni was 90 minutes, funny, and gorgeously staged. A giant revolving cube that turned slowly, opening at intervals to create stunning rooms or street scenes. The whole cast sang magnificently and caused goosebumps quite a few times.

'During the long interval we returned to our picnic in the gardens. It was still beautifully warm and sunny as we enjoyed a typical English tea with Prosecco, strawberries and cream, coffee and chocolates. I could have sat there forever but the second half started at 7pm for another 90 minutes. It was absolutely fantastic and deserved its long, enthusiastic applause.

'For someone who likes contemporary operas and music I was amazed at how much I enjoyed Don Giovanni and would definitely see it again. Our journey home took 50 minutes and we chatted about the whole experience the whole way. Neither of us will ever forget it and would like to say thank you again for such a wonderful time.'

Our thanks go to Stephen for painting such a vivid picture of his day, and of course to Glyndebourne for supporting this generous prize.