Opera + Classical Music Features

Spotlight: Glyndebourne 2015 – getting tickets and making the most of it


Glyndebourne (Photo: Marc Eskenazi)

Public booking for the 2015 Festival opens just after midnight on Monday March 9th, and there are six productions in the season, beginning on May 21st and ending on August 30th. With a mix of traditional favourites such as Carmen, a new production of Mozart’s Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail and much-loved yet less frequently seen works such as Handel’s Saul and Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, there is something for everyone, and the Glyndebourne experience is not just for the minted and / or titled.

Your editor first fell in love with the place in 1990, having obtained a ticket for the then-notorious Peter Sellars production of Die Zauberflöte after several patrons had returned theirs, but you don’t need a controversy to get there in 2015, because Glyndebourne has moved with the times and you have a good chance of getting in if you know how to go about it.

So why go to all the bother of getting tickets to Glyndebourne – surely it’s just for rich poshos and crumblies? You might think that, but in fact only around half of the seats are reserved by members, and of those available to the public, there are quite a few at the lower end of the price spectrum – for example, there are seats at £50 in the Upper Circle and standing places at £20, and many people ‘get lucky’ with restricted view ones on the sides; the opera house is a modern one, constructed in such a way as to ensure that no seat is really ‘bad.’ Another option is to join the free ‘Returns Club’ – this alerts you to returned tickets via email, usually just a few days before performances; given the length of time between when some patrons book and the actual season, it’s inevitable that tickets come back to the box office.

If you are aged 16-29, you can join the Under 30s programme, enabling you to get excellent seats for £30: booking is already open for these, so if you’d like to see Fiona Shaw’s much-praised production of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia on August 4th, or the new production of Handel’s Saul with Iestyn Davies on August 25th, you’d better move fast. The latter evening is reserved exclusively for the under-30s and it won’t be surprising if it’s just as successful as last year’s similar event.

So, having snagged your ticket, what’s next? Getting there is easy – if you are not driving, there are frequent trains from London Victoria to Lewes, and Glyndebourne provide a free coach service from the station to the opera house – no booking needed, you just show up with your ticket. You’ll be with many other opera goers, mostly clutching picnic baskets and evening dress bags.

Yes, you do need to dress up, and dressing rooms are provided – black tie & suit for guys, frock for girls is the norm, and from what we see all around us, young people love to get dolled up for something special. You don’t need to spend a fortune; for every Valentino-clad woman there will be one in Top Shop, and as for the men, many of them will be in M&S. Wear what you like as long as it does not feature a towering head-dress behind which no one will be able to see the stage, or long jangly glass earrings which someone is sure to tell you make more noise than Papageno’s magic bells.

Two essential tips for girls are worth mentioning here: first, leave the high stilettos at home and opt for flats or platforms, since thin heels will sink into the grass and seriously impede your graceful progress across the lawn, and secondly, no matter how gloriously sunny the day, take a wrap or shawl for the interval – you don’t want to be shivering whilst quaffing your champagne.

And so to the picnic. As with tickets and dress, there is no obligation at all to have champagne and posh deli food; again, for every group with a linen tablecloth, bottles of vintage Bolly, flower arrangements and dressed lobster on the plates, there will be another with a blanket, a bottle of prosecco and supermarket cold meats & salads. The delight is in the experience: sitting out there in that fabulous garden, looking over one of the most sublime landscapes in England, enjoying food & drink you’ve chosen, having had an hour and a half or so of wonderful music and with more to come.

When the performance is over, many people mill around for coffee and chat, before wending their way along the beautifully lit paths through the gardens to the car park or the bus: you may well hear murmured comments such as “Four more to go: can’t wait” and “Our last one until the Tour. Sniff!” as you shuffle along wishing that you lived in this place and could see it every day.

So, what should you be trying to get in for this year? We will be covering every production, and you’re spoilt for choice once more. The season kicks off with a rarity – Donizetti’s Poliuto in the hands of the same team responsible for the highly praised 2011 Don Pasquale; the opera may be obscure but the cast is not, featuring Ana María Martínez (the sensational 2009 Rusalka) and Michael Fabiano, last season’s Alfredo in Traviata – performances run from May 21st – July 15th. Next up is a complete contrast in the shape of David McVicar’s acclaimed production of Carmen – Lucy Crowe makes her role debut as Micaëla, Stéphanie d’Oustrac takes the title part, and dates are May 23rd-July 11th.

Mozart’s Die Entführung as dem Serail opens on June 13th (until August 10th) in a new production by McVicar with a superb cast including Sally Matthews and Edgaras Montvidas (last season’s much-admired Lensky) – Robin Ticciati conducts. Then we have a revival of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia in Fiona Shaw’s award-winning production: Kate Royal, last season’s luminous Marschallin, makes her role debut as Female Chorus (July 5th-August 19th).

Handelians will be in heaven when Saul opens on July 23rd, with performances until August 29th: Iestyn Davies follows up on his star turn as Rinaldo with the role of David, and Christopher Purves takes the title part. Ivor Bolton conducts the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the work is directed by Barrie Kosky. The season ends with the Ravel double bill which was a highlight of the 2012 productions: Laurent Pelly’s interpretation is a delight, and with Danielle de Niese in leading roles in both works, it’s sure to be a fitting conclusion to the Festival. And then there’s the Tour, and screenings… but that’s another feature.

Check glyndebourne.com for further performance and booking info.

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