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Glyndebourne Festival Opera Company Biography

Glyndebourne Festival Opera Company Tickets

Glyndebourne Festival Opera Company In-depth Biography

Glyndebourne Festival Opera} is among the most prestigious music festivals in the world, presenting opera} productions of the highest quality in an intimate, gracious setting.

In 1931, wealthy, opera-loving businessman {%John Christie} (1882-1962) married Audrey Mildmay} (1900 - 1953), a soprano, and built a 311-seat opera} theater at Glyndebourne, his elegant country estate in Sussex, south England. Audrey} convinced him to focus on Mozart} operas}.

{%Christie} was willing to pay for the highest standards. He hired the great conductor Fritz Busch} and music director. He allowed unlimited rehearsals. The park-like, rural surroundings, free of distractions, allowed the artists to focus on their work. As a result the performances were exemplary. Glyndebourne} soon added to its repertory the additional Mozart} operas} Die Entführung aus dem Serail}, Die Zauberflöte}, and Don Giovanni}, in addition to Verdi}'s Macbeth} (its first British production), and Donizetti}'s Don Pasquale}.

War in 1939 ended the Festival} for the duration. Financial and social conditions after the War were different, making it impossible for {%Christie} to continue spending his own money on the Festival}. (He had lost over 100,000 pre-War pounds in Glyndebourne}'s first years).

However, he was able to subsidize an outside group, the English Opera Group}, to premiere Benjamin Britten}'s new chamber opera}, The Rape of Lucretia}, and Glyndebourne} in 1946, reviving at least the appearance of the Glyndebourne} tradition. The next year, a similar arrangement allowed the premiere of Britten}'s next chamber opera}, Albert Herring}, and Glyndebourne} itself produced a second opera}, Gluck}'s Orfeo}, with the country's favorite new operatic} star Kathleen Ferrier}, and started an additional revenue-producing activity by taking the production on tour to the Edinburgh Festival}, which they continued to do through 1951.

{%Spedan Lewis} of the John Lewis Partnership} put up a financial guarantee allowing Glyndebourne} to put on a regular festival season in 1950, which also marked Fritz Busch}'s return. In 1951 Glyndebourne} received a government grant to allow it to continue as a participant in the Festival of Britain}. Busch} again conducted four Mozart} productions, including the British professional premiere of Idomeneo}. This was Busch}'s last year. He died in 1951 and was succeeded as chief conductor by Vittorio Gui}, an Italian Mozart} specialist.

In 1953 the theater was enlarged to 700 seats. In that year Glyndebourne} mounted its own first production of a contemporary opera}, Stravinsky}'s The Rake's Progress}, (the Britten} operas} having been produced by the English Opera Group}). Since then the Festival} has introduced a new opera} nearly every year. In 1954 the Glyndebourne Arts Trust was founded, assuming all financial responsibility for the Festival}. In 1958 {%Christie}'s son {%George} (b. 1934) assumed control of the Glyndebourne Productions Ltd., which actually runs the Festival}.

During the post-war years the orchestra was provided by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra} from 1948 to 1963, and by the London Philharmonic} from 1965 onwards. (In fact, the LPO} played in 1964 as well, but billed as the "Glyndebourne Festival Orchestra}.") The "Glyndebourne Festival Chorus}" is generally one or another choral group engaged or formed for each season. In 1969 John Pritchard} became the music director, succeeded by Bernard Haitink} in 1977 and then by Sir Andrew Davis}.

The Glyndebourne} experience includes its manor-house setting, its upper-class tone, and such traditions as a pre-opera} picnic on the lawn. Although the opera} house was later enlarged to 800 seats, in 1994 {%George Christie} opened a new, larger theater. The new setting proved popular with Festival} audiences.

After the summer season, the Glyndebourne Touring Opera} takes the year's productions to various smaller theaters throughout Britain for an autumn season. ~ Joseph Stevenson, All Music Guide

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