Glyndebourne, located in the England countryside, declares that it produces “no ordinary opera,” and one could certainly use a similar mantra for its stately, stunning gardens. Musicians and patrons alike gain inspiration from the visual splendor of Glyndebourne. And according to Glyndebourne’s head gardener Kevin Martin, the inspiration is mutual.
“I get inspiration from the music but also from the high level of the craftsmanship, from the props people to the backstage staff,” Martin explains. “I sit in the auditorium and think, ‘Wow!’ And I just want them to go out there in the garden and say, ‘Wow!’”
Martin has worked at Glyndebourne for 26 years, and during his tenure, he has never tired of the immersive gardens’ unique sounds: “I haven’t had a bad day in all of those years… In the morning, it sounds like a normal garden, and as the day goes on, you get different noises: corks of champagne popping, singers warming up. And it goes right through to the end of the evening, with quiet chit-chat and people reflecting on the day.”
Just as the operas performed onstage evolve over the years, so too do the gardens. Martin notes that he observes how patrons interact with the green space. “I sometimes in the evening walk around, just undercover, as it were, to see how people use [the gardens]. That often affects our designs, to think about shade, windbreak, things like that. We’re lucky because we’ve got scent, texture, sound — all of these things we can add to the garden.”
Even if people think they know all about opera and gardens, Martin feels that Glyndebourne offers something distinctive. “Don’t expect the expected here,” he states. “I remember working on the terrace garden, and this young lady comes screaming down the path, ran straight through my garden, and jumped on the lawn! I didn’t know anything about it, [but] it was actually part of an opera that they ran during the [intermission] — it was quite a shock. The surprises are never-ending.”
Bask in the Glyndebourne gardens with this photo tour