Each summer, Glyndebourne Festival, an integral part of the British Season, takes place among the undulating hills of the South Downs in East Sussex offering a rich programme of world-class opera in the beautiful grounds of Glyndebourne house…
In 1934, John Christie and his wife, the soprano Audrey Mildmay, began the tradition of this festival with the bold idea of building an opera house in the their back garden. When the Christies started out, they intended to do “not just the best we can do, but the best that can be done anywhere.” And many would say they succeeded in their aim: today Glyndebourne is one of the world’s most celebrated opera festivals, running throughout the British summer months.
When the theatre was first constructed, it was built to hold around 300 people, and as Glyndebourne grew in fame, so did the capacity of the opera house, which has now quadrupled in size and holds performances around 120 times a year.
Currently, the Glyndebourne brand has expanded too, stretching to a tour, an education programme, and a library of productions. Performances here are replicated and screened around in the world, from Tokyo to New York.
However, Glyndebourne has stayed in the family, handed down through the generations to Gus Christie, the grandson of John Christie, who, like his grandfather, married an operatic soprano: Danielle de Niese.
This year, to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Béatrice et Benedict by Hector Berlioz runs from 23 July to 27 August, while Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs from 11 to 28 August, though there is only limited availability tickets for the latter.
But, of course, it’s not just about the opera, as Arnhel de Serra’s photographs show: Glyndebourne is also about donning evening dress and packing a delicious picnic for the 90-minute interval – look out for candlesticks, glasswear and champagne. Cheers!
Words: Khusrau Islam