Good Venue Guide; 4: Glyndebourne, Sussex

Date of Birth: 1934. Born again: 1994

Brief History: John Christie was asked by his young opera-singer wife, Audrey Mildmay, to build her an opera house and to "do the thing properly". And he did. With the aid of architect Jock Gough, Christie created in the grounds of their house a rather eccentric, aristocrat's plaything of a theatre, entered through a Tudor marble fireplace. Initial audiences didn't please Mrs Christie (they averaged 50) but when word of their near- al fresco operatic experience spread through the genteel, dilettante circles of south-east England, full houses became the norm. In 1954 Christie handed the reins over to a trust. In 1994, a new pounds 34m auditorium was opened. This was no Lottery hand-out: the money was raised from "private and corporate supporters of Glyndebourne" - and, wisely, they won't say who.

The building: "blending in" is the architectural theory chez Christie. The new opera house, designed by Michael Hopkins, seats 1,200. It's round, in the style of a Roman amphitheatre, or silage tower perhaps, with a softly-lit, tented foyer. Say what you like about the exterior, the interior is as finely-tuned as an Aeolian harp, engineered by acoustics expert Derek Sugden.

Strange but true: the Christie family's current obsession is pug dogs. They even have one named after Gary Lineker. After opera ... Crufts?

Current Events: Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, Janacek's The Makropulos Case, or for a bit of three-in-a-bed action, there's Rossini's Le Comte Ory. All continue until 25 Oct.

Don't you have to be a toff to get in? Veterans wouldn't think of turning up in anything but black tie, but no dinner jacket is formally required. Groundlings can stand for a mere three quid. Circle and stalls cost pounds 48 a seat. Best value are the slips at pounds 17.50 slips. Bookings on 01273 813813.

Where to eat: there are three restaurants, or, if you find their pounds 50 la carte prices a bit steep, there's always the picnic-on-the-lawn option.

Transport: take a train from London Victoria to Lewes, then a taxi, or they'll pick you up ... for a small fee, naturally. Maggie O'Farrell & Andrew Waddell