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90 years of Figaro at Glyndebourne

On Monday 28 May 1934, the curtain went up on the very first Glyndebourne Festival

To celebrate our 90th anniversary, we take a look back at three key productions of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, the opera that started it all…

1934: the first Festival

Our first Festival presented productions of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte in the newly built opera house, which originally sat 300 people. Conducted by Fritz Busch, with direction from Carl Ebert, Le nozze di Figaro starred Audrey Mildmay as Susanna. From its very beginnings, Glyndebourne was a critical success, with the News Chronicle saying ‘The first performance was as near perfection as anybody has the right to hope for’.

Audrey Mildmay as Susanna and Willi Domgraf-Fassbander as Figaro, Le nozze di Figaro, 1934. Glyndebourne Archive Collection.

A poster advertising the first Glyndebourne Festival. Glyndebourne Archive Collection.

Audiences enjoying the gardens in 1934. London News Agency/Glyndebourne Archive Collection.

Audiences enjoying the gardens in 1934. London News Agency/Glyndebourne Archive Collection.

Early years of the Glyndebourne Festival revolved almost entirely around Mozart’s repertoire before gradually expanding to include works by other composers such as Benjamin Britten, with whom Glyndebourne has enjoyed long association, as well as Giuseppe Verdi, Gioachino Rossini and many others. The theatre was enlarged and improved many times in subsequent years to hold larger audiences; such was the demand for opera at Glyndebourne. By 1977, it held 850 people.

1994: new opera house, new Figaro

With growing audiences for opera at Glyndebourne, and the ambition to stage larger and more technically complex productions, by the 1990s it was clear that Glyndebourne needed a larger opera house. In 1994 a new opera house, seating 1,200 opened, with much improved backstage facilities, excellent acoustics and sightlines. As a tribute to the Festival’s origins, the season opened on 28 May with a new production of Le nozze di Figaro, starring Alison Hagley as Susanna, Gerald Finley as Figaro, Renee Fleming as Countess Almaviva and Andreas Schmidt as Count Almaviva. The new production was directed by Stephen Medcalf and conducted by Bernard Haitink, and was also broadcast live on Channel 4.

Audiences enjoying the interval at the new opera house in 1994. Photo: Guy Gravett

Gerald Finley as Figaro. Le nozze di Figaro, 1994. Photo: Guy Gravett.

Renee Fleming as Countess Almaviva and Alison Hagley as Susanna. Le nozze di Figaro, 1994. Photo: Guy Gravett.

The audience take their seats for the opening night of the Festival in 1994. Photo: Guy Gravett

2012: our latest Figaro

Our most recent production of Le nozze di Figaro is the much loved 2012 version, directed by Michael Grandage which relocates the action to the swinging sixties.

Le nozze di Figaro, 2012. Photo: Alastair Muir

To celebrate our 90th anniversary, we’re offering a free stream of the 2012 production on Glyndebourne Encore. Get a taster in this clip featuring Vito Priante as Figaro:

Coming soon

A new production of Le nozze di Figaro opens in 2025. The new staging will be directed by French director Mariame Clément whose productions are known for their wit, intelligence and musicality; a fitting combination for an opera that is both charming and subversive in its portrayal of social hierarchies.

Italian conductor Riccardo Minasi conducts the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and an exciting young cast that includes Huw Montague Rendall and Louise Alder as Count and Countess Almaviva, Michael Nagl as Figaro and Anna El-Khashem as Susanna.

Mariame Clément at Glyndebourne in 2023. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith.

Find out more about Next year’s Festival

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