Friday, June 21, 2024

The unspoken Glyndebourne dress code and how to get it right

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Glyndebourne, one of the world’s most celebrated opera festivals, kicks off on Thursday and runs until August 25. In its 90th year, sales have already been record-breaking with performances including The Merry Widow, which is being staged here for the very first time, alongside Carmen and The Magic Flute.

For anyone who has ever held a ticket, there’s something spectacularly magical about this country house opera – from its idyllic South Downs setting, where thistled hills and lavender-scented gardens surround a rambling 16th-century manor house, to the formal dress code, which is still de rigueur despite no longer being enforced. Coming here feels like the ultimate social cachet. 

For all its lifelong older members who raise an eyebrow at radical productions and slipping dress standards (you’ll spot a handful catching a snooze after a few too many flutes in the sunshine) there’s been an influx of a younger fans, thanks in part to new under 30s and 40s memberships offering priority booking and discounted tickets.

Audiences don’t just come for the music but for the whole experience – the thrill of getting dressed up and assembling the fanciest picnic of their entire life; silver, crystal, candlesticks, everything goes, devoured to the soundtrack of birdsong and grazing sheep. This is a place where high standards prevail and first timers will likely be pondering what on earth to wear, because while the official website states there are “no rules”, if you roll up in denim, flip-flops or shorts, be prepared to find yourself under scorn. 

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