A private house in the English countryside that stages operas in its beautiful grounds, Glyndebourne from its foundation in 1934 has become one of the world's most famous and influential opera venues. It has been run by the Christie family since its inception. Pronunciation: GLINE-born.

If you're really rather rich and have booked a ticket before you were born, you can enjoy a picnic in the garden sipping nourishing drinkipoos; the rest of us rely on recordings and broadcasts.

John Christie (1882-1962) and his wife Audrey Mildmay built their opera house in Sussex for the love of it, out of sheer eccentricity, and because Audrey was a soprano -- though not, I have to admit, one I have ever heard of in terms of recordings or performances otherwise. John had inherited the estate in 1920; Audrey was a singer with the Carl Rosa company. He had been organising private performances in the house, and planned something larger. It was his wife's encouragement that made him go the whole hog and build a complete theatre in the grounds. It opened on 28th May 1934 with The Marriage of Figaro.

As conductor they had Fritz Busch, a Hitler refugee. The line of principal conductors has many illustrious names: they include John Pritchard, Bernard Haitink, and Sir Andrew Davis. The current musical director, succeeding Sir Andrew in 2000, is Vladimir Jurowski. The Viennese impresario Rudolf Bing became general manager in 1936, for ten years.

With the increasing fame and popularity of Glyndebourne this original theatre could no longer cope, and in 1987 their son and successor (from 1958) Sir George Christie announced it would be replaced. The new opera house opened on the same date with the same opera, in 1994. Sir George retired in 2000, succeeded by his son Gus.

Among the world premieres at Glyndebourne are two of Britten's operas, The Rape of Lucretia on 12th July 1946 and Albert Herring on 20th June 1947. Another was Harrison Birtwistle's The Second Mrs Kong in 1994.

The main season at the house is called the Glyndebourne Festival. Since 1968 there has been a Glyndebourne on Tour company to take festival productions and singers on the road. Since 1986 they have had an education department.

It was Audrey Mildmay and Rudolf Bing who founded the Edinburgh Festival in 1947, and in its early years Glyndebourne productions figured heavily.

John Christie got his wealth from an organ company, Hill, Norman, & Beard Ltd. His first act at Glyndebourne, long before he conceived of the opera festival, was to install an organ into its gigantic music room: see the "ondamar" web reference below for a complete specification of its stops. It no longer survives.


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