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Adam Gilbert 

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Every minute was crucial in the lead-up to Dame Ethel Smith’s The Wreckers at Glyndebourne last week. Not because of last-minute rehearsals: because the only man alive that was well enough to perform the part of Marc happened to be 280 miles from the venue, hours before the debut. 

After the lead and the lead’s understudy were pronounced too ill to perform, Adam Gilbert, a tenor living in southwest Wales, was considered the opera’s only saving grace: the third and only man to have ‘ever learned the part’. The ‘suffragette opera’, a work Sir Thomas Beecham once praised as a ‘masterpiece’, was to be performed at the opera house for the first time in 80 years. 

Gilbert had been enjoying a holiday in South Wales with his children when he received a ‘once in a lifetime’ call from the opera house, he told Tatler. ‘They asked if I was free, and of course, I was happy to help,’ he said. 

The mission to get Gilbert to Glyndebourne in time for the performance has been compared to a Bond film sequence, or even a political emergency. Collected by helicopter, the singer was given a frantic 45-minute tour of the south of England on his journey to the venue, where he was flung into black tie, rushed to the side of the stage, and thrown on to give his hearty rendition of the vocals. All in a few hour’s work.