Glyndebourne Festival Opera

The Glyndebourne Festival, running each Summer from May to August, is one of those institutions whose existence says much about the glorious eccentricity of the British. A country mansion with a world class opera house tacked on the side.

Glyndebourne opera house viewed from the outside
The Glyndebourne opera house

The smallish auditorium, seating 1200, gives a slightly more intimate feel than the majority of top class opera houses. The opera standards are amazingly high considering the house receives no government subsidy and the prices are kept within the standard operatic range (so not cheap by any stretch of the imagination). The singers aren't always drawn from the biggest names but the consistency of casting is impressive. Two fantastic orchestras are used, either The Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment or the London Philharmonic Orchestra depending on the period of the opera. The current music director is Robin Ticciati.

Traditionally Mozart has received a very strong showing at Glyndebourne though in recent years the range of rep has known no limits. Starting with Tristan und Isolde and more recently Die Meistersinger, Wagner has finally got a showing, the orchestra pit seemingly swelling to fit the scale of the pieces.

Glyndebourne's Tristan und Isolde
Glyndebourne's magnificent Tristan und Isolde © Glyndebourne

Attending Glyndebourne is a full day out -- and one of the best days out we know! The rural location means many have to travel a considerable distance to get to Glyndebourne and the performances start early, 5pm-ish at latest. The performance is punctuated by a very long interval in which elaborate picnics are eaten on the lawn. You can bring your own, buy a hamper or eat in one of the restaurants (much less fun…).

A Glyndebourne picnic
Picnicking on the lawns

The Festival Society

Glyndebourne is still predominantly an opera house driven by members. Tickets are first sold to members of the “Festival Society”, then “Associate Members” and finally to the general public. For many shows almost all the tickets sell before the general public gets access (and what remains tends to be at the highest end of the price range). The exception to this are some of the restricted view seats and standing places which are offered first to the general public.

There is a considerable waiting list to become a member of the Festival Society (there are around 9,000 members) and each member pays annual dues of £155. Even for these members there is a ballot for tickets (and no guarantee you’ll get your first choice by any means). Associate members pay £80 a year and anyone can sign up for this (though the number of new members is capped each year). Associate membership also acts as a waiting list for those who want to become full members.

If you’re not a member there are ways to get tickets, see the FAQs, but it isn’t always easy. Glyndebourne is a private, unsubsidised venture (unlike the Royal Opera and ENO), so they do not hold back tickets to ensure fair access to the general public.

Glyndebourne on Tour

Glyndebourne on Tour pretty much does what it says on the tin. Each year several of the mainstage productions travel around the country to reach a wider audience. Ticket prices are much lower and despite less starry casting musical standards are generally extremely high. If you’re really keen to visit Glyndebourne itself, the tour actually opens with a run of performances at Glyndebourne giving you much of the fun but for much less money (and there’s no dress code either).

FAQ: Attending Glyndebourne

  • Getting there

  • Is there a Dress code?

  • Programmes and Information?

  • Cloakroom?

  • Can I get in late?

FAQ: Cheap Tickets!

  • Sold Out Shows?

  • Are all the seats expensive?

  • Discounts?

  • Under 30s?

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