Glyndebourne is the gesamtkunstwerk

Wagner had this idea that the different art forms should synthesise and that there should be a single art form (“gesamtkunstwerk”) that is perfect in every artistic way: musically, visually, dramatically …

If you go to Glyndebourne, that experience is pretty much what you get.


Only a few of the 15th-century stately home’s rooms are open to visitors, but the Organ Room is pretty fantastic:

Natural beauty

The gardens are beautifully kept, and there is a waterlily-covered lake. Modern sculptures, fountains and not-too-curated flower beds abound.

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We saw Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, a slightly oddly structured opera-within-an-opera, partly about the conflict between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art, as time constraints (in the frame story) force the cast of Ariadne to share the stage with a comedy troupe. Here is the beautiful ending from another production (start from 3:15):

Visual art

And finally, there is a mini White Cube space in the gardens where you can see Rachel Kneebone’s Ovid in Exile sculpture exhibition.

Feet emerge out of porcelain blobs & flowers morph into umbilical cords set on top of cracked plinths or into wreaths (as above). White Cube’s website provides this commentary, which seems to make sense (for a change!):

she combines intricately modelled organic, architectural and geometric forms to create detailed scenarios that constantly shift between figuration and abstraction […]

Kneebone gives shape to perennial human concerns and anxieties; to what it means to exist with the knowledge of mortality, and to be bound by our cognitive and physical limitations [… which explains why …] she exploits the materiality of porcelain, positively embracing the cracks and fissures that occur in the firing process to highlight the relationship between structure and dissolve and an idea of continual renewal

The struggle between the abstract, transcendental & sublime and the sad realities of our flawed embodied state is something we have to deal with every day, no?!

And perhaps these facets of our existence are reflected in the ‘high’ and ‘low’ art forms (opera seria vs opera buffa) we see competing in Ariadne, too.


You should go. Not only is it a top artistic experience, but it’s also embarrassingly British: where else would you quaff Prosecco, strawberries & cream in black tie in an aristocrat’s garden?!


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