Opera synopses

Read synopses of Glyndebourne’s productions and discover the twists, turns and highlights of some of the most compelling stories in the opera repertoire.

Il barbiere di Siviglia

Clever Figaro, the famous Barber of Seville, has much to gain if he can win Count Almaviva his chosen bride. But the crafty would-be bride, Rosina, is already several steps ahead of him, plotting to escape her guardian Dr Bartolo, who has kept her captive for long enough as he wishes to marry her himself.


Danao lives in fear of a prophecy that his life and kingdom will be taken by the lover of one of his daughters. So he commands all 50 of his daughters to marry and then kill all the sons of Egitto. 49 daughters obey, but Hipermestra refuses to slay her husband, Linceo.


Elsinore, Denmark. King Hamlet has died, mourned by his son, Prince Hamlet of Denmark. The King’s funeral is followed fast upon by the marriage of his widow Gertrude, to his brother, Claudius.

La clemenza di Tito

Vitellia’s path to the throne is thwarted by the man who deposed her father, so she presses her admirer Sesto to murder him. Sesto is caught in an agonising dilemma, for the man in question is not only his best friend but also his sovereign. Driven by love, Sesto does his worst. But in return, receives a lesson in forgiveness.

Don Pasquale

Don Pasquale, the 64th of Donizetti's 66 operas, has a diamond-bright wit and brilliance but with a distinctly darker side involving a complex and increasingly vindictive deception.

La traviata

During the 1850s, Verdi found himself increasingly drawn to stories of complex, ambiguous outsiders who challenge the limits of society. La traviata tells the story of the courtesan Violetta, a heroine of unprecedented depth and dimension.

Ariadne auf Naxos

An intricately crafted collaboration between composer Richard Strauss and writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal, the kernel of the story of Ariadne auf Naxos is the clash between high and low art.


The first of Handel’s great English oratorios, Saul melds operatic-style, psychologically probing arias with mighty choruses.


Donizetti’s rarely-produced masterwork Poliuto is based on Corneille’s French Neoclassical tragedy Polyeucte and tells the tale of Saint Polyeuctus (d. 259 AD), an early Christian martyr.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail

A popular Sing spiel in which tuneful Viennese comedy meets serious Enlightenment philosophy, the piece is often cited as Mozart's first fully mature stage work.

Carmen - Festival 2015

Set in Andalucía, Carmen is based on the 1845 novella by Prosper Mérimée and traces the joined fates of the fiery gypsy Carmen and Don José, a naïve army corporal. Appearing in the 2015 Glyndebourne Festival.

The Rape of Lucretia

The harrowing historic tale of Lucretia has inspired works by artists throughout the ages. Britten coined the term ‘chamber opera’ to describe this intimate, haunting masterpiece, which deploys a cast of eight singers.

Ravel Double Bill

Glyndebourne's double bill of one act Ravel operas comprises of the Spanish flavoured L'heure espagnole and the fantastical L'enfant et les sortileges.

Billy Budd

Benjamin Britten's powerfully dramatic opera, set on board a British man of war during the Napoleonic wars, presents a situation where a man's innocence is not enough to save him.

Der Rosenkavalier

After shocking the opera world with Salome and Elektra, Richard Strauss seduced it with Der Rosenkavalier, the most beguiling of all romantic farces and a bittersweet mediation on the evanescence of love and time.

Don Giovanni

Mozart's Don Giovanni slinks relentlessly between comedy and tragedy as the composer presents his take on the story of the legendary 14th-century Spanish nobleman Don Juan.

Eugene Onegin

Tchaikovsky's operatic take on Pushkin's Eugene Onegin transformed a revered master-work of Russian literature into the best-loved and arguably greatest, of all Russian operas.


Throughout his long career, Verdi longed to find a good subject for a comic opera. He found that subject, in the vast and jovial shape of Shakespeare's John Falstaff and the result is a triumph.

Hippolyte et Aricie

Hippolyte et Aricie was French composer Rameau's first work for the stage. For it, he drew on ancient Greek tragedy and 17th-century classical French drama to create a version of the story of Theseus, Phaedra and Hippolytus that is his own unique construct.

La bohème

Writers and painters, desperate to make their mark, permanently in debt, falling tumultuously in and out of love. In La bohème, Puccini created painfully true-to-life characters for a work as relevant now as when it was first performed in 1896.

La Cenerentola

Rossini's retelling of the story of Cinderella dispenses with whimsy and magical intervention to present genuine human predicaments. The dark edges of the story are punctuated throughout with tender emotion and sparkling comedy.

La finta giardiniera

La finta giardiniera is based on Goldoni's play Pamela nubile, itself derived from Richardson's novel Pamela. It was Mozart's eighth stage work and premièred two weeks before his 19th birthday.

Le nozze di Figaro

Ever since Le nozze di Figaro opened the inaugural Glyndebourne Festival in 1934, the opera has been a signature work of the house. During the course of one mad day, tables are turned and expectations dashed as masters and servants seek to outwit one another.


In 1711, Handel was commissioned to write an Italian opera for the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket. Arguably as English as it is Italian, Rinaldo displays the influence of British semi-operas like Purcell's King Arthur and plays including Dryden's Amphitryon.

The Cunning Little Vixen

Perhaps the only opera to be inspired by a newspaper cartoon strip, Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen tells the story life in the forest as it continues its inevitable cycle.

The Fairy Queen

Purcell's intoxicating combination of words and music alternates elements of the plot of A Midsummer Night's Dream with a variety of musical interludes.

The Turn of the Screw

Based on the story by Henry James, Britten's opera draws on every nuance of the original’s insidious subtlety, its depiction of a strangely disturbed atmosphere, of hidden horrors and ambiguities.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Among the longest operas performed today, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is the only comic opera among Wagner's mature works.


Entwining elements of a number of familiar fairy stories, this opera by the Czech composer Dvořák is both fantastical and painfully human.

L'elisir d'amore

The twists and turns of the plot of L'elisir d'amore are dazzlingly delineated by Donizetti in music of delightful invention and at times, true poignancy.

Così fan tutte

As the innocent trick veers off-course, boisterous hijinks ensue, souls are searched, and true love is born – at some cost. Chock full of sublime Mozartean melodies and dazzling singing, Così fan tutte is the third and last of the brilliant operas Mozart wrote with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte.