News and Features

A snapshot of the year 1968

The year 1968 marks a milestone in Glyndebourne’s history.

The year 1968 marks a milestone in Glyndebourne’s history.
It was the year that the company started its expansion from an annual summer festival into a year-round opera company when Sir George Christie launched the Glyndebourne Tour, then known as Glyndebourne Touring Opera.

Here we explore the world into which the Tour was launched, with a look at some important events of 1968.


Covent Garden Opera Company renamed The Royal Opera on receiving a Royal Charter.

Photo by Russ London at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Welsh National Opera continued its development from an amateur organisation to fully professional company by supplementing its chorus with professional singers for the first time.

Sadler’s Wells Opera Company relocates to the London Coliseum. In 1974 it was renamed English National Opera.

Photo by Mike Peel (

Scottish Opera stages its first production abroad, a performance of Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring at Florence’s prestigious Maggio Musicale Festival.


The introduction of the Theatres Act 1968 ends censorship in UK theatres. The American musical Hair, which featured nudity and drug-taking, opened in London the following day.


Premiere of Hans Werner Henze’s oratorio Das Floß der Medusa in Hamburg, Germany. The performance, which had been dedicated to Che Guevara, was interrupted by protests causing a planned live broadcast to be cancelled. In November 2017 the oratorio was performed at Hamburg’s new concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie, under the baton of Peter Eötvös – you can read more about the scandalous events around the premiere on their website.

The Beatles animated film Yellow Submarine debuts in London.

The first Isle of Wight Festival takes place in August.


Release of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, widely considered to be the greatest sci-fi film of all time.

The 1968 Cannes Film Festival was cut short in solidarity with the workers and students who were protesting across France that summer

Release of the musical Oliver! which went on to win six prizes at the 1969 Oscars, including Best Picture, the first U rated film to win that award.


Martin Luther King and Robert F Kennedy are assassinated within months of each other. The Civil Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B Johnson during the riots that followed King’s murder.

A demonstration in London’s Grosvenor Square against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War leads to violence. Ninety-one police were injured and 200 demonstrators arrested.

Two black American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, made history at the Mexico Olympics by staging a silent protest against racial discrimination.

Science and technology

Apollo 8 becomes the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon. On Christmas Eve millions of people around the world tuned in as the astronauts – Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders – broadcast live images of the moon and Earth and took turns reading from the book of Genesis.

Surgeons conduct the first heart transplant on a British patient. The patient died 46 days after receiving the donor heart.

Scientists devise the Epidural to ease the pain of childbirth.

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