Stories from the Archive

Roses are silver

To celebrate the Garden Museum’s exhibition, Wild & Cultivated: Fashioning the Rose, we look back at the flower's significance at Glyndebourne – on and off-stage.

2022 marks the 10th anniversary of the first bloom of Glyndebourne’s Rosa Glyndebourne.

The rose, bred for the Glyndebourne gardens, was planted in the winter of 2011 by Lady Christie and Danielle de Niese. Roses have long been a familiar sight at Glyndebourne… though not always in the gardens. The stage has often been adorned with roses, whether as props, on costumes or as set dressing. 

We are thrilled that two of our props are currently available to see as part of the Garden Museum’s latest exhibition, Wild & Cultivated: Fashioning the Rose. We have loaned two silver roses, one designed by Oliver Messel (1904-1978) and the other by Erté (Romain de Tirtoff, 1892-1990) from their respective productions of Richard Strauss’s opera Der Rosenkavalier in addition to two programme books created by the designers, both depicting roses. Seeing these two roses up close, together, is a rare treat not to be missed! 


Oliver Messel’s silver rose from Der Rosenkavalier, 1959. Photo: Felix Reitze de la Haye / Courtesy The Garden Museum, London


Erté’s silver rose from Der Rosenkavalier, 1980. Photo: Felix Reitze de la Haye / Courtesy The Garden Museum, London

Rose motifs appear again on Messel’s Glyndebourne Festival Programme Book cover designs for both 1956 and 1959. The latter depicts the silver rose from Der Rosenkavalier on a rose-coloured background, whilst the 1956 cover uses a single rose as part of the framing of Mozart’s silhouette. The original artwork for the 1956 cover will be on display at Glyndebourne throughout Festival 2022 as part of the Cover to Cover exhibition which celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Glyndebourne Festival Programme Book.

Images above: Sena Jurinac as The Countess in the Oliver Messel designed Le nozze di Figaro, 1955. Photo: Guy Gravett / Glyndebourne Productions Ltd | Costume for Sophie, designed by Erté and worn by Kristina Laki, Der Rosenkavalier, 1980. Photo: Mike Hoban / Glyndebourne Productions Ltd. | Felicity Lott as Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, 1980. Designed by Erté. Photo: Guy Gravett / Glyndebourne Productions Ltd.

Erté would redesign the opera in 1980, exclaiming, ‘I have waited all my life for someone to ask me to design Der Rosenkavalier. Erté created over 80 designs for the production and presented a solid silver rose (including thorns), a much simplified departure from Messel’s bejewelled design. Roses appear throughout the John Cox directed production (and Erté’s career), with various costumes adorned with flowers. One stunning example is Sophie’s dress (worn by Kristina Laki), which features white roses in full bloom along the trimming, offering a mid-19th century inspired twist on the traditional 18th century setting of the opera. The costume now forms part of the V&A’s Theatre Collection.

Festival 2022 sees Glyndebourne’s premiere of Handel’s Alcina, directed by Francesco Micheli with set designs by Edoardo Sanchi and costumes designed by Alessio Rosati, the production promises audiences a rose-tinted view of this magical opera, which is an exuberant fantasy full of illusion and wizardry and teases a set full of roses. So whether you see roses at Glyndebourne (on or off-stage), the Garden Museum, or in your own garden whilst watching Mozart’s Così fan tutte (another rose filled opera production!) as part of this year’s Glyndebourne Open House, 2022 is looking rather rosey.

Written by Philip Boot, Glyndebourne’s archivist.

Main image – Audiences enjoying the rose garden, Glyndebourne, 1939 . Photo: Glyndebourne Archive Collection.

Image: a detail from the Alcina set. Sam Stephenson


The Garden Museum’s exhibition is on until 19 June 2022

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