Glyndebourne Festival Opera

Glyndebourne Festival Opera
Glyndebourne Festival Opera is an annual opera festival held at Glyndebourne, an English country house situated near the town of Lewes, East Sussex, England. Built about six hundred years ago, the house has been the venue for the festival since the 1930s.

Although the exact age of the house is unknown, it is believed to have been built in the XV or XVI century. John Christie obtained the house in 1913 after the death of the previous owner, his grandfather. An avid music lover, he added to the house an organ room and held regular amateur opera evenings. At one of these evenings, he met Canadian soprano Audrey Mildmay. Christie was immediately smitten by her charm and they got married in 1931. During their honeymoon, they attended music festivals in Bayreuth and Salzburg. Inspired by these festivals, they decided to found one in Glyndebourne.

The inaugural Glyndebourne Festival Opera ran over six weeks in summer 1934. It opened with a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro featuring Audrey Mildmay as Susanna. Famous German conductor Fritz Busch served as the festival’s music director, and German actor, stage director and arts administrator Carl Ebert was the artistic director. The festival has been organized by the Christies ever since, except for the years 1941–1945 (because of the Second World War) and 1993 (due to the construction of a new theater in Glyndebourne).

Over the years, Glyndebourne Festival Opera has become one of the world’s most famous opera events. It has been particularly celebrated for its productions of Mozart operas. Other notable productions included George Gerschwin’s Porgy and Bess, directed by Trevor Nunn. Although Mozart operas still form the core of the festival’s repertory, the company has expanded it with productions of operas by other composers. Since 1964, the London Philharmonic Orchestra has been the primary resident orchestra for the festival and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is its associate orchestra.

As we’ve already mentioned above, Fritz Busch was the first music director of the festival. He held the position from 1934 to 1951. His successors have included notable conductors such as Vittorio Gui (Italy), John Pritchard (the United Kingdom), Bernard Haitink (the Netherlands), Andrew Davis (the United Kingdom), Vladimir Jurowski (Russia), and Robin Ticciati (the United Kingdom).

Glyndebourne Festival Opera is part of the English summer season. Many attendees come from London so performances start in the afternoon, enabling Londoners to leave town after lunch and catch the last train back. Since 1968, the festival’s touring ensemble, Glyndebourne Touring Opera, has brought opera productions to several English cities including Oxford, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.

Glyndebourne Festival Opera

Photo: Robert Workman




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