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Everything You Need to Know about Glyndebourne Opera Festival

The glitziest opera event in the country, marrying exceptional performances, fancy fashion, and world-class food.

Naomi Chadderton
Naomi Chadderton
An experienced editor and journalist specialising in news and lifestyle.

Do you consider yourself a bit of an opera connoisseur? Or maybe you like the idea of getting out there in the beautiful Sussex countryside and doing something different. Either way, a visit to Glyndebourne Opera Festival should be top of everyone’s list of plans this summer.

The most glamorous opera event in the UK, Glyndebourne Opera Festival – which runs May to August – has been drawing royals, aristocrats, and opera fans to the grounds of its historic home-meets-opera house just outside Lewes since 1934, delivering performances to some 150,000 people across a busy summer and autumn season which features some of opera's biggest names.

Each year sees an exciting programme of world-class opera and, from fashion to food, here’s exactly what you can expect from your visit.

Glyndebourne opera features modern operas and the classics too
Production at Glyndebourne is exceptional

What Should I Wear To Glyndebourne Opera?

While not as strict as the dress code was 90 years ago, when founder John Christie ran a black-tie dress code for all his audiences, a trip to Glyndebourne is still an opportunity to dress to impress.

Daytime events such as rehearsals, open days, and picnics are typically relaxed affairs with a dress code to match, but for evening performances, black tie attire is still very much encouraged, with an emphasis on elegance.

Women have the choice of floor-length evening gowns, cocktail dresses or, for those wanting to up the style stakes, a modern trouser suit complete with high heels or dress shoes plus statement jewellery to really pack a punch.

As for the gents, think formal suit and tie or dinner jacket, or a dress shirt and trousers with a sports coat. Dress shoes like Oxford or loafers are encouraged, so don’t forget your shoe polish.

Enjoy the beautiful Sussex countryside at Glyndebourne
Dress to impress at Glyndebourne opera

What to Eat at Glyndebourne Opera Festival

It wouldn’t be a great British day out without some stellar cuisine, so be sure to make use of the productions’ long 90-minute dinner intervals to eat well.

Guests are welcome to bring their own picnic or book one in advance to enjoy in the gardens, while there are also plenty of world-class restaurants on site too. Highlights include the Galvin Brother’s Middle & Over which features an exclusively curated menu of signature dishes also served at their Michelin-starred restaurant Galvin La Chapelle; Mildmay which, new for 2023, offers one- or two-course options of delicious British cuisine; and Nether Wallop, a casual banquet-style restaurant championing locally-sourced, sustainable produce.

The History of Glyndebourne Opera Festival

Lord Christie inherited the Glyndebourne estate in 1920 when he began mounting amateur opera productions in the grand house’s organ room. Following his marriage to singer Audrey Mildmay, the pair’s shared passion for music led them to create a small purpose-built theatre on the grounds to hold 300 people, an orchestra pit, and a stage. The first festival was held in 1934 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today Glyndebourne and its opera house are still run by the Christie family, who also includes sometime leading lady, Danielle De Niese, who is married to Glyndebourne heir, Gus Christie. In 1994 a new opera house designed by Hopkins Architects was built on the site, which is circular in design and made from the finest wood, to better optimise the acoustics in the theatre, and is a thing of beauty in its own right.

World-class restaurants include the Galvin Brother’s Middle & Over featuring an exclusively curated menu also served at their Michelin-starred restaurant.

What Else Can I Do While I’m At Glyndebourne?

Be sure to carve out some time in your schedule to check out the picturesque town of Lewes. Less rowdy than its neighbouring Brighton, this arty enclave is home to lots of cultural sites, great cafés and restaurants, and a Bohemian shopping scene that can easily keep you entertained for the afternoon.

Must-do activities include a climb up Lewes Castle, where you can soak up some magnificent views, or take a tour of Anne of Cleve's house in Southover. On a sunny day, try taking a dip in Pells Pool, the country’s oldest recorded freshwater outdoor public pool. Be sure to sample some artisan gin at Symposium before you leave, too.

A short 30-minute drive down to the coast will bring you to the breathtaking Seven Sisters Chalk Cliffs and Beachy Head near the genteel seaside town of Eastbourne while, if time allows, take a 45-minute drive in the opposite direction and you’ll stumble across the South Downs. The perfect place to stretch your legs, it traverses England’s newest national park, the South Downs National Park.

How Can I Get Tickets for Glyndebourne Opera Festival?

Members enjoy early priority booking for the Festival, all remaining tickets go on sale to the public in March. Click here to purchase. Be quick!

Glyndebourne's stunning exterior
The beautiful Seven Sisters, in East Sussex