Stories from the Archive

Romantic moments on the Glyndebourne stage

We delve into our photography archive to look at some of the most romantic moments depicted on the Glyndebourne stage

From devastating tragedies to boy-meets-girl romantic comedies, love comes in all shapes in opera.

As Valentine’s Day approaches we have delved into our extensive photography archive to find some of the most romantic moments depicted on the Glyndebourne stage (and maybe not the ones that you were expecting…)

L'elisir d'amore

Operatic romances don’t come more bright and breezy than that between Nemerino and Adina. He’s a typical boy-next-door, in love with the girl-next-door, but she only has eyes for the smooth-talking soldier Belcore. When a travelling doctor arrives in town, Nemorino pins all his hopes on a magical love potion. But nothing in this topsy-turvy comedy is ever quite as it seems…

There have been two productions of the opera at Glyndebourne – the classic Franco Zeffirelli version that debuted in 1961, and Annabelle Arden’s much-loved 1940s production, which returns to the Festival this summer. The first of the photos above shows Luigi Alva and Eugenia Ratti in rehearsal for the very first of the opera’s Festival outings. The second photo is from our most recent revival for Tour 2019, when Sehoon Moon and Benedetta Torre took on the roles.

Photos: Guy Gravett and Donald Cooper

Subscribers to Glyndebourne Encore can watch L’elisir d’amore in full.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail

When staging Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail, directors are faced with the challenge of how to present Konstanze’s relationship with the Pasha. 

The noblewoman Konstanze has been kidnapped by Pasha Selim, who has fallen for her and wants her to remain in his harem. In her aria ‘Martern aller arten’ Konstanze refuses to betray Belmonte, her fiance, saying she would rather suffer torture than submit to the Pasha. But her music arguably tells a different story. Furious volleys of coloratura express the heroine’s barely controlled rage and passion, though whether that is directed towards herself and her desire for the Pasha or at him is unclear.

David McVicar’s Glyndebourne production plays on this ambiguity, and sparks fly between Konstanze and the Pasha. The clear mutual desire between them can be seen in this photo of Franck Saurel and Sally Matthews in the Festival 2015 run.

Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

Subscribers to Glyndebourne Encore can watch Die Entführung aus dem Serail in full.


Composed by Alban Berg between 1929 and 1935, Lulu is widely acknowledged as the first opera to feature an openly lesbian character, Countess Martha Geschwitz. The Countess is one of Lulu’s many lovers, but seems to be the only one who truly cares for her. The opera follows the title character, who starts the opera as the well-to-do wife of a Viennese doctor, and ends destitute on the streets of London. The Countess stays by Lulu’s side until the opera’s bleak conclusion, when both are murdered by Jack the Ripper.

Lulu was staged at Glyndebourne as part of Festival 1996, and at the Proms the same year. These photos capture an intense moment between Countess Geschwitz (Kathryn Harries) and Lulu (Christine Schafer).

Photos: Guy Gravett

Tristan und Isolde

One of opera’s greatest love triangles is that of doomed lovers Tristan and Isolde, and his uncle, King Marke, who plans to marry her.

Wagner’s interpretation of this 12th century legend presents it as the biggest, the broadest and most all encompassing love story there could be – a passion so powerful and true that it could only be fulfilled in death. 

Our founder, John Christie, had always dreamed of staging Wagner at Glyndebourne, but it was not until the new theatre was built that we had a space that could do justice to his work. In 2003 Tristan und Isolde became the first of Wagner’s operas to be staged here.

The production is available on DVD and CD from our shop.

Photo: Mike Hoban


Based on the Biblical story of David, Handel’s oratorio presents an intense friendship between the Goliath-slaying David and Jonathan, the son of the eponymous King of Israel. Director Barrie Kosky brought a queer sensibility to the opera for his 2015 Glyndebourne production. In his version, David and Jonathan are more than just friends, sharing a passionate kiss in the second act. By romantically linking David to both Saul’s daughter Michal and his son, the tensions between the characters become even more heightened.

Subscribers to Glyndebourne Encore can watch Saul in full.

Photo: Bill Cooper

Porgy and Bess

Porgy and Bess was first staged at Glyndebourne in 1986, with Willard White and Cynthia Haymon as the titular lovers. Porgy, a poor man who begs on the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, falls hard for the sultry Bess. He wants to rescue her from her violent and possessive lover, Crown, and the drug dealer Sportin’ Life. For a time the two are happy together, but events quickly escalate and come to a heartbreaking conclusion when Porgy returns from a spell in jail to discover that Bess has left for New York with Sportin’ Life.

In the beautiful ‘I Loves You Porgy’, Bess implores Porgy to protect her from Crown, and he promises her that he will keep her safe. The song has been recorded by numerous pop and jazz musicians, including Nina Simone’s classic 1958 version.

In 1993 the Glyndebourne production was adapted for the screen by Trevor Nunn and is available on DVD from our shop.

Photo: Guy Gravett


Fiona Shaw’s 2019 production of Cendrillon added an unexpected queer twist to Massenet’s Cinderella story, cleverly subverting the expectations of a ‘trouser role’, where male roles are sung by women. In the production, Kate Lindsey plays both Prince Charming and a kindly housemaid. At the opera’s conclusion, Cinderella ends up in the arms of the maid, rather than Prince Charming, and we are left wondering if the Prince himself was nothing but a dream, perhaps a dream in which Cendrillon was exploring her true feelings for the girl who has been there for her throughout the story.

In the image above, Cendrillon meets her Prince Charming at the ball (photo by Richard Hubert Smith).

Subscribers to Glyndebourne Encore can watch Cendrillon in full.

Experience more tales of love and passion this summer at Festival 2022, including Puccini’s La bohème. Public booking opens on Sunday 6 March.

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