The tradition started in 1934, with performances taking place in a theatre seating 300 alongside the country home of John Christie, the Festival founder. In early years, the focus was on the many and varied works of Mozart, but since then, the repertoire has expanded, and, so too, the facilities. In 1994, a new opera house was inaugurated that seated 1,200. This is where the Festival is taking place in 2010, its 76th year. Between now and the end of August, the programme features one work by Mozart, Don Giovanni, and, in addition, The Rake's Progress by Stravinsky, and Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck.
Despite certain modernisation, the event remains highly exclusive, and the setting intimate and elegant. Glyndebourne's global reputation draws audiences from across the planet, and the performances feature first-class names from the world of opera.
Of course, the pleasure of Glyndebourne isn't limited to the music; it's hardly possible to mention the name without conjuring the image of crisp white linen picnic cloths laid out on an English country lawn with champagne, strawberries and cucumber sandwiches. And indeed, many of the audience - in elegant evening dress - choose to picnic during the long interval, although there are also restaurant facilities available.
If you prefer to stay in London, this year Glyndebourne is coming to the capital: on the weekend of 20th to 22nd August, the eighteenth century courtyard of Somerset House is to be transformed into an open air opera house – with Fortnum & Mason doing the picnic honours. Three operas from the 2010 programme are to be shown: Billy Budd, directed by Michael Grandage; The Rake’s Progress, featuring stunning designs by David Hockney – which will be screened live from the 2010 Festival itself – and a special matinee screening for all the family of Hansel and Gretel. For those outside the capital, there will also be screenings in cinemas across the UK.
Glyndebourne Festival, British Tourist Board