Member stories

A performance of Cosi fan tutti in June 1976 was my first introduction to Glyndebourne. I made a vow then that I would go to Glyndebourne at least once every year. And that is what I have done, enabled by my application for Membership of Glyndebourne being accepted in the following year of 1977. This was quite astonishing, owing to the long twenty year waiting list for some. I still don’t know how it happened.
Of all the operas that I and my husband and friends have enjoyed, we think the one that stands out as exceptional in every way was a performance of Der Rosenkavalier in 1982 with the Designer, Erte, himself in the audience. Another, of course, was the 50th Golden Anniversary of Glyndebourne in 1984, with a performance of Le nozze di Figaro. Also in the audience was a member of the cast from the original 1934 production of Le nozze di Figaro, Aulikki Rautawaara, who sang the role of the Countess.
All the programmes we have kept since 1976 bear witness to these many years of pleasure and privilege that we owe to Glyndebourne.
– Thea McNeish

I was only 22 when, at 24 hours’ notice, my uncle handed me free tickets for Fidelio at Glyndebourne. I hastily invited my girlfriend and younger brother, both travelling specially from Birmingham.
We struggled to change into evening wear on the train, having heard about the dress expectation. But we had not been warned about the Long Interval, and had nothing to eat! So we wandered the lawns, amazed to be among so many elaborate picnic tables in the fresh summer air.
Back by the House, I noticed a little Membership Booth. It was purely a case of excess boredom in that 1979 long interval that I applied to be a Member … what incredible fortune, for 13 years later I could join. I have been every year since, often twice, and loved it so much that when my own wife felt she had seen enough, I occasionally resorted to taking my friends’ wives (purely on a Platonic basis, I should emphasise)!
– Nick Goulde

My introduction to opera was through a school trip to the first Covent Garden production of Peter Grimes. No-one had told me that both opera and Britten were supposed to be “difficult” – and I was immediately hooked on this most dramatic and moving form of entertainment.
I started coming to Glyndebourne soon afterwards, and remember how hot the old house could get on warm days – but also, and indelibly, the revelation of La Calisto, and the enchanting 1955 production of Le nozze de Figaro.
When the new house opened we had a long run of good luck with glorious English summer days for our visits. Musically it has been twentieth century works that stick in the mind – Lulu, The Makropolous Case, and more recently the marvellous production of Billy Budd. But perhaps Glyndebourne’s greatest achievement in our house was to break down my wife’s resistance to Wagner with Tristan and Isolde.
Thanks for many happy memories over many years.
– Peter Stokes

From our first visit to Glyndebourne in 1954 we were in love with the place and still are. There’s no space to recall all the fabulous evenings over the 60 years – so here’s a letter I sent in 1976.
“You will note, no doubt with horror, that I have asked for FIVE seats for “Cosi” although you stipulate quite clearly that a maximum of four seats may be requested for Block F.
I have to plead mitigating circumstances. Unfortunately when planning my family no one at the Family Planning Association warned me that the optimum size of my family should be four, in order to conform to Glyndebourne’s strictures. I misguidedly had a third. Now my children are old enough (and opera fans enough) to appreciate the delights of Glyndebourne and I am faced with the unenviable task of leaving one of them out, should I be fortunate enough to win the lottery for seats.
Please have mercy on my predicament and stretch your rules.”
The wonderful Box Office staff had a laugh AND we did win the lottery! Happy memories.
– Elaine and Peter Hallgarten

A young man invited me to see Alceste in 1958. I made my dress. He asked me to put up a picnic. He arrived at my lodgings in South London with a tale of disaster. He had forgotten his black braces! My landlady, very amused, constructed some from some blackout material she had put away. We set off in high spirits. We looked for a quiet spot to set up our picnic. He chose the very end of the lake. Then put his precious bottle of hock into the lake to keep cool.
The opera was breathtaking, I could hardly move a muscle. Then came the interval and we strolled to the lake’s end, just in time to see the very tip of the bottle disappearing. Not to be denied his anticipated drink, he plunged his arm into the lake and came up, rather wet, but triumphant, with the wine. We had a lovely evening.
A couple of years later he asked me to marry him and together we went to Glyndebourne every year apart from one, until his death in 1998. When I explained to the Box Office that year that he would no longer be a Member, they gave warm condolences, and then asked whether I would like membership to be transferred to me. In a time of gloom, Glyndebourne lifted my spirits in every sense. Ten years later I re-married another opera lover, and so our Glyndebourne tradition continues.
– P Prindl

Meeting the incomparable Geraint Evans in the bar on the last evening of the old house has to be one of my highlights, and the Peter Hall Mozart Da Ponte series will never be forgotten.
– Colin Newlands

My introduction to Glyndebourne came in about 1958, as a young member of the wine trade, from Dr. Otto Loeb, a great opera lover, a renowned expert on German wines and a senior wine merchant, who supplied the finest Rhine and Moselle wines to Glyndebourne for many years.
He took my wife and me to several dress rehearsals, which we found most exciting. The performance which still remains with me today was a wonderful Fidelio, with costumes and scenery of the time of Beethoven, in which the leading roles were played by Gré Brouwenstein and Richard Lewis. Fidelios I have seen since, with more contemporary scenery and dress, have simply not made the same impression.
Otto Loeb taught me most of what I know about German wines and ever since fine Moselle has been one of my favourite wines.
– Robin Don

In my over 40 years of coming to Glyndebourne a situation of a few years ago stands out. At the table next to my wife and I on the balcony a young man was entertaining a pretty and beautifully dressed young lady to dinner. He was the PERFECT host and she was LOVING every minute of it! Oh to be young again! We have seen many lovely productions, not least the wonderful Verdi Falstaff of a few years ago.
– Richard Green

My very best production which I will always remember my life through, are the Cosi fan Tutte on a ship in the bay of Naples, a wonderful A Midsummer Night’s dream, and Orfeo and Euridice with Dame Janet Baker.
I was taken for the first time to Glyndebourne by Sir Alan Walker, who was a Trustee at Glyndebourne, and it was a superb discovery. After his death, I became member and never regretted it.
Another “souvenir” was during a picnic on a very rainy day: sitting on a plaid, sat Gus Christie I think, with an umbrella and wearing a swimming suit under his dinner jacket! Very courageous for the girl friend who was sitting next to him!!!
– Vicomtesse Marina de Jonghe d’Ardoye

One of my abiding memories is of seeing the wonderful Verdi Falstaff directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. It was an eventful visit. The lady, not my now wife I hasten to add, I invited was renowned for being late and had asked me to pick her up from a hairdresser in Mayfair. She was late and I had to drive with great verve to join our party.
I planned to change on arrival. Our contribution to the picnic was gazpacho which shared the boot with my clothes for changing. My verve had on arrival strewn it over my dress shirt. Only one solution. A visit to a local stream and a very damp start before Falstaff got anywhere near defenestration.
The old opera house was very hot that night. The garlic fumes were magnificent as my shirt dried on me! At the dinner interval a gentlemen of far more distinction than I remarked loudly: “garlic is permitted after the dinner interval but no gentlemen should indulge his garlic craving before it!”. Cannot remember what the soup tasted like…..
– Richard Linsell

A remarkable concatenation of circumstances led to my introduction to Glyndebourne in 1980, the year I arrived in the UK from New York to work for Ford of Europe.
In May I began seeing a soprano with the English National Opera. Glyndebourne was mentioned — she had sung in the chorus — but it meant little to me until, that is, I realised that the secretary I had inherited from my predecessor was the person at Ford who took care of the allocation of Glyndebourne tickets for Ford, at that time a substantial sponsor.
One thing naturally led to another, which included a performance of The Magic Flute that summer. While with Ford I took full advantage of my Glyndebourne opportunities. Nothing grieved me more when Ford and I parted in 1983 than my loss of those privileges.
Nonetheless in the intervening years before being accepted by the Festival Society I was successful in getting tickets for performances. It has always been appealing to contemplate that the Festival and I were born in the same year!
A highlight last year was a tour of the Glyndebourne facilities. This was an eye-opener with I heartily recommend to anyone offered the opportunity.
– Karl Ludvigsen

My first and decisive experiences of opera, we lived in the remoteness of Devon, were broadcasts: Die Meistersinger on the Third Programme (not its watered down successor) and a televised performance of Die Zauberflöte from Glyndebourne in Franco Enriquez’s 1963 production with designs by Emanuele Luzatti. I was bowled over: for days I couldn’t get the music or the images out of my head, the brilliance of the Queen of the Night’s arias, the power of Tamino’s meeting with the Armed Men, the feeling of elation produced by Tamino’s and Pamina’s completion of their trials by water and fire.
A few years later, in 1970. I made my first visit to Glyndebourne itself – to see that very production, which remains for me the most satisfying realisation of Mozart’s and Schikaneder’s spiritual, magical world. More than forty years later it remains a cherished and important memory.
– David Gladwell

Kit and I were not quite engaged when my parents took us to Glyndebourne on that glorious evening, full moon included later. The performance was overwhelming and the recording of that superb cast is still treasured. Many others could say the same, but we were the only couple who, after dinner in Middle Wallop, set off unsociably, to wander round BOTH lakes. At the far end of the second lake, we heard the first bell marking the end of the interval. Young and fit, we were in our seats in time, but would like to claim the Glyndebourne record for that distance! The second lake was put out of bounds not long afterwards. 54 years later, this remain a precious memory for us both.
– Rosemary Cahill

My first visit to Glyndebourne was in 1956 when I was taken by my aunt to see Die Zauberflote, part of the all Mozart programme that season. Other visits followed and in 1962 I took my then girlfriend to see Pelleas et Melisande, on the way home and somewhere in the Downs we be came engaged, we married a year later and this year we celebrated our Golden Wedding with a visit to see Le Nozze di Figaro. Over the last fifty years we have made many visits to Glyndebourne, introducing not only our three sons to opera but many friends have joined us too. Memorable productions are The Last Supper, The Rake’s Progress, The Makropulos Case, Giulio Cesare and all the Britten productions. You might say that we are both avid supporters and now look forward each year to a week’s holiday in Sussex with visits to Glyndebourne.
– Andrew and Caroline Thomson

Our regular visits started in the early ’70’s. Of the first 25, 18 were in wet, or extremely wet, days. On one of them we were wandering in the car park during a break in the rain when we heard distinct sounds of extreme merriment coming from a very steamed up Volvo estate. At that moment a car window went down and a very slurred voice said “We’ve been many times and this is the first time it has rained”. It seemed to us that they had consumed their picnic drinks in a short time; at the same time leaving us somewhat envious on both counts!
– Richard and Gill Holliday

Taken to Cosi from school in 1951! Inspirational.
– F Bickerton

I suppose we’ve been going to Glyndebourne for about fifty years: first as a guest of my father-in-law and then on own account. So I should have known better.
The decisions on which performance and which days to book have become earlier every year. And this was the trap waiting for me.
I knew we had to see Ariadne aud Naxos. And I chose Sunday the 16th June and invited two close friends, mad about Richard Strauss.
It wasn’t until May I realised that the 16th June was the London to Brighton Bike Ride for which I had collected a considerable amount of sponsorship money.
I decided I would go for the long day and do both.
I got up at 4.45 cycled to Clapham, started for Brighton at 6am. Had two pints of Harveys at the Bull at Ditchling, limped into Brighton with a puncture and found the car I’d cunningly parked in Hove. With my two biking companions, I drove to Gatwick, had a shower and changed. They (a journalist and a professor of medicine) did other things but my wife brought another car to Gatwick and we got to Glyndebourne in time for tea.
Fortunately, I’d got tickets in the front row so it was impossible to fall asleep even if the music had not been ravishing.
And there was a moment when, after a neighbour in the front row, (not our guest), laughed rather loudly and William Christie turned round, in the middle of conducting, and snarled ‘I suppose you think that’s funny?’
And of course it was funny. The music wasn’t but the production was. Whoops!
It was a brilliant day for all of us. If a bit long for me.
– Roger Holland

We had four days in London and tickets for Billy Budd on August, 22nd. The weather forecast on the internet for the four days was bright. On Thursday August, 22nd there were heavy showers in London and great expectations for a wet afternoon in Glyndebourne. Travelling south on a packed train there was not a glimpse of the sun until the very last stop before Lewes. Then we were treated to a splendid afternoon, a marvellous, breath taking opera and a delicious meal – Thank You Glyndebourne and “Auf Wiedersehen” next year – best regards and wishes from Vienna, Austria!
– Wilhelm Schachel

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