Smack in the East Sussex countryside lies Glyndebourne, a family estate which houses six annual opera productions in its 1,200 seat opera house. Pretty sweet digs if you ask me. Being a member of Glyndebourne gives you an advantage getting tickets, which sell faster than home plate seats to the World Series. My parents were smart enough to sign me up for membership as a fetus and are now using me 25 years later to get them seats in the stalls. Unlike opera at the Met in New York or the Santa Fe Opera House, Glyndebourne has a unique charm and is an experience you have to try even if you aren’t an opera buff.
|Mind the gap, aka ‘the ha ha’|
Like most operas, everyone attending Glyndebourne dresses to the nines, some outfits more questionable than others, and gather around the gardens and lawns of the estate for pre-opera bubbly. This all seems charming and lovely until you watch someone fall in “the ha ha,” the nickname for the end of the lawn where there is a sudden four foot drop designed to keep out cattle, sheep etc. ‘The ha ha’ makes you a bit cautious about paying too many visits to the drinks tent.
|The drinks tent: not your average outdoor bar|
Picking out the ideal picnic spot for your party is a true art form and worth arriving early before all the prime picnic real estate is bagged. You haven’t seen a five star English picnic until you come to Glyndebourne. White tablecloths, silver, a floral table arrangement and someone to hold your umbrella Puff Daddy style are NBD here. Once your table and champer hamper is set up, get the drinks flowing and let the good times roll.
|Gold Moet best served chilled.
After some bubbly and a photo shoot documenting yourself looking classier than usual, it is worth walking around the famous Glyndebourne gardens even if it means trading your stiletos for a pair of gumboots.
|Galoshes go great paired with an evening dress|
|Where are the weeds?|
You should also check out the organ room, which in addition to the fabulous acoustics (for the organ), sports the best door stop I have ever seen – I need one!
|Busy at work keeping the door open|
John Christie, founder of Glyndebourne, was clearly a classy guy with great taste, as seen by his memorial tablet held up by his two trustee four legged furry friends.
The performance usually starts around 5pm, when everyone giddily abandons their picnic and heads into the opera house for that night’s performance, which is after all the reason for coming! A couple of hours basking in the music and everyone rushes out to enjoy the interval – aka your gourmet picnic. This is when you really hope the party you are with have splurged and you aren’t stuck left eating dry sandwiches and cold tea.
|Duckhams know how to picnic|
Back for the second half of the opera and if you are lucky, the star that evening is the gorgeous opera pin up with a fabulous voice (yes, she does have everything), Miss Danielle De Niese. Hanging around for a much needed black coffee before hitting the road might permit a close up view and a chance to chat up your fave rave.
|Danielle might not be single but she’s ready to mingle|
Getting to Glyndebourne isn’t too tough – catch a train from London’s Victoria station and enjoy a day in the English countryside sprinkled with culture for an unforgettable experience. Just don’t forget your champagne and galoshes.