Once upon a time, just prior to 1934 shall we say, a man named John Christie worked out what opera had been missing – picnicing. Alright that's not the whole story, more correctly Mr. Christie came up with the idea for a new summer opera festival that would be held in the grounds of a wonderful stately home, just outside of Lewes. What was particularly bright about this idea was that Christie already owned the stately home in question: Glyndebourne, and he was already an opera producer. So he had the skills and the facilities to hand to bring his idea to life.
This is very much not a situation of listening to opera in a bandstand – Christie built a theatre annex on his grounds. And while one of the pleasures of attending a performance at Glyndebourne is taking a promenade around the grounds before the performance and picnicing on the lawn during the interval – which usually lasts for around 90 minutes to ensure you have time to finish – this is not an outdoor event.
There's something particularly pleasant about getting out of town for the evening. You might think that this train and then coach journey would put people off, but the assumption is that you're going to bunk off work after lunch and come down for the early starts: performances start at about 6pm.
Adding to the pleasure of the wonderful natural ambience, and the fact that you just got to bunk off work early, are the lovely traditions of the event. Christie thought it showed respect to the performers to attend in evening dress and this tradition still holds. And while the restaurant is a newer addition, for a long time you've been able to order your picnic when you bought your tickets, which would be set up for you come the interval, complete with glass, china and cutlery. And you can order off the main menu.
So whatever's playing – they're famous for their Mozarts but these days they have a very wide repertoire – you know you're going to be able to enjoy some of the evening.