The gradual opening up of the Glyndebourne Festival takes two major steps forward this year with an expansion of digital provision and a greater number of affordable seats. They are further moves along a well-worn path ‒ the house has long sought to fight off the ‘opera for toffs’ clichés that the tabloids love to perpetuate. The opening of the new house in 1994 provided more seats in the theatre and the advance of digital technology brought along a whole lot more virtual seats, allowing Glyndebourne to reach a far wider audience.
This year for the first time, all six productions will be streamed online and in cinemas in a combination of live and recorded live transmissions (the online streaming free, courtesy of the Guardian), and a new pricing structure sees one third of all Glyndebourne Festival tickets on offer at £100 or less.
‘Glyndebourne has always taken great pride in the quality of the productions we create,’ says general director David Pickard, ‘and we are delighted that in 2013 we will be sharing our work with as broad a range of audiences as possible through a multi-channel platform of stage, screen and online.’
The key word is quality, for whatever changes have come its way, Glyndebourne has always held rigidly to the principle of a long, detailed rehearsal process, and the nurturing of talent. That hasn’t prevented the occasional turkey appearing on stage, but a Glyndebourne turkey is always very well cooked.
The 2013 season has two new productions: the festival’s first performance of Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie, William Christie conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on period instruments of the time and Sarah Connolly singing Phèdre, and Ariadne auf Naxos, giving Vladimir Jurowski his first chance to conduct a fully staged Strauss opera.
Ariadne opens the festival on 18 May, with a lot of debuts: Katharina Thoma making her Glyndebourne debut as director, US mezzo Kate Lindsey making her role and festival debut as the Composer, and Russian tenor Sergey Skorokhodov making his UK and Glyndebourne debut as Bacchus.
Hippolyte sees the return of director Jonathan Kent and designer Paul Brown, who with conductor William Christie made waves with Purcell’s The Fairy Queen in 2009.
There are revivals of two Michael Grand-age productions ‒ his Billy Budd of 2010 and Le nozze di Figaro of 2012 ‒ and of Richard Jones’ 2009 Falstaff and Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen on Glyndebourne Tour, making its first festival appearance, with Danielle de Niese as Norina.
The Billy Budd and Falstaff are the only nods to this year of anniversaries in the festival season, though Wagner gets the treatment with CD releases on the Glyndebourne label of the Tristan und Isolde of 2009 and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg of 2011. They also celebrate the musical legacy of Vladimir Jurowski, seeing out his 13th and last year as music director of the festival. From January 2014 he is succeeded by Robin Ticciati, former director of Glyndebourne on Tour.
Jurowski’s final year will be marked with a celebration concert in August. ‘I have relished my time here as music director,’ he says, ‘and am tremendously proud of the artistic work we have produced. I am delighted that in 2014 the enormously talented conductor Robin Ticciati will take over this role and have every confidence that he will cherish, as I have, the opportunity to create opera in the unique environment that Glyndebourne provides.’
Along with Jurowski’s Tristan and Meistersinger come releases of his Glyndebourne Cenerentola and Love and Other Demons. All four will be released for the first time as digital downloads ‒ this year sees Glyndebourne’s entire independent CD collection available for download. The house is also producing its first ever compilation album containing a selection of tracks from Così fan tutte and Le nozze di Figaro. Further digital expansion sees additional Glyndebourne DVD releases, including The Cunning Little Vixen, Le nozze di Figaro and the Ravel double bill, L’ heure espagnole and L’enfant et les sortilèges, filmed live during the 2012 Glyndebourne Festival.
As part of the new ticket pricing deal, an enhanced package for the ‘Glyndebourne<30’ (under 30s) scheme has been unveiled, more than 1,000 festival tickets for the under 30s priced at just £30. This will also extend the scheme to offer access to a broader range of Glyndebourne activities including 2013 tour performances and cinema screenings. Those with thicker wallets are invited to pay up to £500 for a pair of tickets in the stalls, but at the other end of the scale, standing places are available from £15. There is certainly no shortage of takers ‒ when public booking opened on 18 March, the tills rang up £1m within 24 hours. It takes single-minded determination to keep the Glyndebourne flag flying high, but the place is in good heart as it looks beyond 2013 to next year’s 80th anniversary season. The 2013 festival runs 18 May to 25 August. Booking: Glyndebourne.com, 01273 815000