During 1966 George Christie announced plans to start a touring company, and two years later Glyndebourne Touring Opera (GTO) made its inaugural tour, visiting Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Oxford. There were only two other touring opera companies at the time and Glyndebourne established its own identity immediately with its innovative productions performed to exceptionally high standards, benefiting as it did from the Festival’s extended rehearsal period. GTO, now known as Glyndebourne Tour, was greeted by enormous critical acclaim and overwhelming public support which has continued ever since.
The reasons for the formation of a touring company were twofold: to make the work of the Glyndebourne Festival accessible to audiences throughout the country, and to give performing opportunities to young and promising singers. From the beginning Glyndebourne has not been interested in names as such, but it has been successful in spotting and nurturing great artists at the beginning of their careers. Thomas Allen, Gerald Finley, Alison Hagley, Philip Langridge, Felicity Lott, Valerie Masterson, Rosalind Plowright, John Rawnsley, Amanda Roocroft, Richard Van Allan, Lillian Watson and Willard White are among the many singers with international careers who began with Glyndebourne Tour.
Anthony Whitworth-Jones, formerly Administrator of GTO and until August 1998 General Director of Glyndebourne, introduced a policy of presenting contemporary opera and commissioning new works for the future. This policy first bore fruit in 1984 with Oliver Knussen’s Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop!, followed by Nigel Osborne’s The Electrification of the Soviet Union in 1987, the UK premiere of Sir Michael Tippett’s New Year in 1990, the premieres of Harrison Birtwistle’s The Second Mrs Kong in 1994 and The Last Supper in 2000, and Jonathan Dove’s new opera Flight in 1998.
Another of Whitworth-Jones’ initiatives was the establishment in 1986 of an education department to complement the company’s touring activities. While continuing to play an important part in educating potential opera audiences all around the country, the department has become a strong creative force in its own right, commissioning many new works.
Since 2012 Glyndebourne’s touring company has been known as Glyndebourne Tour.