Glyndebourne Festival Opera
"It is over 75 years since my grandfather staged the first Glyndebourne Festival. Since then Glyndebourne has grown into both a cultural institution and a sizeable business. What has sustained it for all those years? The fact that we share with our audience a real love of opera.
"We believe it has the power to enrich people’s lives and we have a mission to share that power. Successive generations of committed and talented people have shaped a unique culture. Everyone here cares passionately about what they do. We’re especially passionate about quality – in our artistic output, and in the way we work as an organisation.
"Glyndebourne is special, and not just because the ‘Glyndebourne experience’ is special. It is partly because we’re a family firm with an extended family of dedicated staff. Other reasons include our location, away from the mainstream cultural citadels, our independent funding, and our unique relationship with our audience. All this allows us to be more original and inventive, to be ourselves."
- Gus Christie, Executive Chairman of Glyndebourne
History of the Glyndebourne Festival
Glyndebourne was founded in 1934 by John Christie and his wife, the soprano Audrey Mildmay. This unique institution has matured unequivocally, but its legacy has remained resolutely the same of "doing not the best we can do but the best that can be done anywhere." (John Christie).
The inaugural season included performances of Le nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte. Audiences and critics left in the unanimous knowledge that they had witnessed something exceptional. The first season embodied Christie’s vision of presenting opera in an undisturbed atmosphere with unlimited opportunity for rehearsal. Fritz Busch and Carl Ebert accepted the posts of Music Director and Artistic Director respectively, and Rudolf Bing was bought in as General Manager.
By the start of the war Glyndebourne was an established house; international both by reputation and in the engagement of international artists. Performers were not chosen because they were stars; the intention was to use the best possible voices. Among the many artists who have started their careers at Glyndebourne are Geraint Evans, Kate Royal, Lisa Milne, Thomas Allen, Edward Gardner, Joan Sutherland, Janet Baker, John Tomlinson, Amanda Roocroft, Simon Rattle and John Pritchard.
Busch was succeeded by Vittorio Gui and, in turn, by John Pritchard, Bernard Haitink, Andrew Davis and currently the Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski. Carl Ebert was followed by Gunther Rennert, Franco Enriquez, Peter Hall, John Cox and Graham Vick. David Pickard took up his appointment as Glyndebourne’s General Director in July 2001. During each of these successions Glyndebourne’s repertoire has expanded to include operas from the baroque to contemporary works, including eight of its own commissions and 13 British premieres.
Two integral components of Glyndebourne Festival Opera are its world-class orchestras, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The Glyndebourne Chorus is similarly vital, and is widely considered one of the pre-eminent choruses in international opera. Adequate preparation and rehearsal have remained key to Glyndebourne’s success. In the initial seven-week rehearsal period before the opening night of the Festival, over 400 hours of production rehearsal take place with an additional 90 hours of music preparation rehearsals. In total the Festival has 1,050 hours of rehearsal with an additional 130 hours of musical preparation and 600 hours of understudy rehearsal.
George Christie took over from his father in 1958. As well as retaining his parents’ objectives of artistic excellence he most notably rebuilt the opera house, now seating 1,200, which opened on 28 May 1994, 60 years to the day after the Festival's inauguration. His son, Gus, took over the reins in January 2000. In 1951 John Christie founded the Glyndebourne Festival Society to raise money to ensure the long-term funding of Glyndebourne. Ever since, it has provided not only support for Glyndebourne’s artistic endeavour but also the chance for opera-lovers to play a central role in one of the world’s greatest opera companies. Today there are approximately 9000 members of the Society. The Glyndebourne Festival Society is currently closed, but a limited number of Associate Members (the waiting list for Festival Society Membership) are given full Society Membership each year. In 1954 the Glyndebourne Arts Trust was formed to ensure the future of the Festival by establishing an endowment fund. Glyndebourne Touring Opera, renamed Glyndebourne on Tour in 2003, was founded by George Christie in 1968 with the aim of taking productions to a wider audience and offering increased performance opportunities to young singers.
Glyndebourne Education was formed in 1986 with an enormous commitment to new opera and community projects; it currently hosts over 230 different education activities each year, including both on site and outreach ventures.
"One of the most dangerous temptations for an institution like Glyndebourne is to become hidebound – to do what you’ve always done, or what you feel is expected of you. So when we plan each Glyndebourne season, we aim to balance the expected with the unexpected"
- David Pickard, General Director of Glyndebourne
As Glyndebourne moves forward, it is at the forefront of the drive to provide wider and more varied access to opera through the exploration of digital media and technical innovation. Such measures will ensure that Glyndebourne cultivates a new audience and invests in future generations of opera-goers, while maintaining its adherence to the founding values that it has embodied for so long.
Glyndebourne Festival and Tour gives around 113 opera performances each year and 150,000 people will see a Glyndebourne production live each year. The Glyndebourne Festival runs from May to August and the Tour from October to December. Some 86,000 people attend the Festival and 55,000 attend Glyndebourne on Tour performances annually.
General Director: David Pickard
Music Director: Vladimir Jurowski
Glyndebourne on Tour Music Director: Jakub Hruša