Sky Arts to broadcast new documentary following Glyndebourne’s battle to ensure that the show could go on

A new documentary going behind-the-scenes of an extraordinary summer at Glyndebourne will be free for everyone to watch on Sky Arts on Sunday 20 December 2020. Glyndebourne: No Ordinary Summer tells the inside story of the company’s battle to get back to live performance after UK theatres were forced to close in March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Each summer, audiences flock to the Glyndebourne Festival for world-class opera. Then came 2020, the pandemic and lockdown. This behind-the-scenes documentary reveals the spirit and determination that ensured the show could go on, resulting in Glyndebourne becoming the first UK opera house to perform full-length opera to a live audience since the start of the pandemic. 

That opera, a new translation of Offenbach’s Mesdames de la Halle called In the Market for Love, premiered outside in the Glyndebourne gardens in August 2020. The story was reimagined to take place at the time of a pandemic, turning social distancing restrictions into a virtue, with clever moments of visual comedy familiar to an audience living with COVID-19 safety measures. 

The documentary follows the creation of that production, with input from conductor Robin Ticciati and singers Danielle de Niese and Kate Lindsey, as well as members of the creative team and Glyndebourne staff as they tackle everything from weather worries, to the conundrum of how to choreograph socially distanced fight scenes. 

Stephen Langridge, Artistic Director of Glyndebourne, said: ‘In the performing arts world the past year has been like an assault course, each barrier more demanding than the last, as we battled to find a way back to live performance. Our attitude throughout was “if we can, we will” and we were fortunate to be in a position to respond quickly when restrictions began to ease at the start of the summer. Early on in lockdown we realised how important it was to capture every twist and turn of this momentous period in our history and this documentary is the result – the inside story of an unforgettable summer.’ 

Glyndebourne’s summer season of outdoor events was in place of the 2020 Glyndebourne Festival which was cancelled due to the pandemic, threatening the livelihoods of its artists and seasonal staff, who make up around two thirds of the company’s workforce. Following the cancellation, Glyndebourne launched a COVID-19 Emergency Appeal through which it has been able to financially support everyone whose contract was cancelled.

Sarah Hopwood, Managing Director of Glyndebourne, said: ‘The documentary is a tribute to the resilience, passion and creativity of theatre professionals and a reminder of the number of livelihoods that have been threatened by the current crisis. Our determination to get back to performing was driven by the urgent need to create work for our freelance artists and staff – we were delighted to achieve that and, in addition, to offer financial support to all of our colleagues via our COVID-19 Emergency Appeal. The situation remains perilous but we hope this documentary provides a chance to celebrate a moment of triumph amidst the adversity of the last year and inspire hope for the future of the arts industry in 2021. ’

Glyndebourne: No Ordinary Summer will be shown at 6.00pm on Sunday 20 December on Sky Arts (free to watch in the UK and Ireland on Freeview 11/Freesat 147/Sky 122/Virgin 123). Following the television broadcast, the documentary will be available to watch for free on the Glyndebourne YouTube channel from 6.00pm on Sunday 27 December until 12pm on Monday 4 January. 

ABOVE: ‘In the Market for Love’ (c) Richard Hubert Smith