Five golden moments of the Tour

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This year we celebrate 50 years of the Glyndebourne Tour. We chatted to some of the people who have been instrumental in taking the Tour on the road to find out their golden moments of the Tour to date.


Getting the Tour on the road for the first time in 1968


Loading up the Tour vans in 1968. Photo: Glyndebourne Archive

Sir George Christie had an unfaltering vision for the Tour which was to reach more people and to provide performance opportunities for emerging talent. Sir George’s vision, passion and drive eventually secured the funding needed to get the Tour started in 1968. Brian Dickie, the first Administrator of the Glyndebourne Tour, looked back at the year that we first took our productions on the road. For the first few years we toured in Spring and the first Tour started on the 5 March in Newcastle before going to Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Oxford. We took four operas on the road that year Don Giovanni, Die Zauberflote, L’elisir d’amore and L’Ormindo. It was all hands on deck packing up the trucks and as a young man in his early twenties Brian found it utterly exhilarating. We are proud to say that 50 years on the Tour continues to achieve what Sir George had hoped by bringing exceptional opera to more people and nurturing fresh talent.


The luscious period costumes and wigs worn by the Glyndebourne chorus in Don Pasquale


Don Pasquale, Tour 2011. Photo: Bill Cooper

Pauline Lecrass, Head of Costume, who joined during the Tour of 2006, found it hard to pick just one costume highlight of the Tour so far. The striking ensemble in Don Pasquale showcases the many skills of our production teams and won her vote in the end. ‘Working for the first time with designer Julia Hansen, supporting the realisation of her particular vision of the piece, sourcing rich cream fabrics from the UK and Europe and using a specialist digital printer to match fabrics to wallpaper was simply a joy’ says Pauline. The reveal of the elaborate costumes and wigs worn by the Glyndebourne chorus delights audiences when they appear suddenly on the revolving set in Act 2 and always makes her smile.


Creating a baby grand piano in under a week for the new production of The Turn of the Screw in 2006


The Turn of the Screw, Tour 2006. Photo: Mike Hoban

The highlight of the Tour to date for Paul Brown, Head of Props at Glyndebourne since 2005, was working on the new production of The Turn of the Screw in 2006. In particular the extraordinary challenge of having to build a 4ft baby grand piano from scratch in just under a week. During the Tour rehearsals a real baby grand piano had been used but it proved too heavy for the stage so a week before the final dress rehearsal the decision was made that a prop piano would need to be made from scratch. In just three and a half days a keyboard had been sourced and amended (it was made slightly smaller for the stage) by Sussex Piano, the body was built by the props team and then the whole piano was spray painted black by car body specialists. An incredible feat by the props team at Glyndebourne and some trusted suppliers.


Working with David Hockney and his team on the striking make up for the Tour performances of the The Rake’s Progress in 1992


The Rake’s Progress, Tour 1992. Photo: Donald Cooper

Sarah Piper, the Head of Make up at Glyndebourne, was visibly excited as she thought back to working on The Rake’s Progress on the Tour. She remembered it as if it was yesterday and said ‘it would certainly feature as one of my Desert Island Discs make up highlights since working at Glyndebourne.’ One of the most exciting challenges of bringing designer David Hockney’s vision to life was that after the interval everyone returns to the stage in monochrome costumes and makeup. Having to strip all of the colour from everyone’s face was difficult, even with the long interval during the Festival, but doing it on Tour with only a 20 minute interval and often working in much smaller spaces was even harder. The thrill of being able to make it work was, in the end, the very reason that the show was so memorable for Sarah.


April De Angelis’s original, poetic libretto for Flight, a new commission for the Tour in 1998 by Jonathan Dove


Flight, Tour 1998. Photo: Mike Hoban.

The setting for April de Angelis’s skilful libretto is an airport lounge and was inspired by the true story of a refugee who was living at Charles de Gaulle airport. A variety of characters are explored on stage from a stranded stateless refugee to unhappy married couples.

‘Partners are changed, buried truths are brought to light, a baby is born and a plane finally takes wing: it’s episodic in soap-opera fashion, but consistently diverting and occasionally touching for all that’
The Telegraph on Flight

Unusually, the libretto is completely original and was not a piece that had been adapted or inspired by other work. It is also written in rhyming couplets perhaps borne out of April’s awareness that what she was writing was going to be sung, ‘I hum a tune as I go along’. Similarly the libretto for Glyndebourne’s newest Festival commission, Hamlet, was also written as a poem.