Grange Park Opera launches £10m Appeal

January 11, 2016

New appeal to be chaired by Sir David Davies and Dame Vivien Duffield
Joanna Lumley and Bryn Terfel lead major giving circles

The Trustees of Grange Park Opera today announce the launch of its £10 million fundraising appeal for the new Theatre in the Woods, West Horsley. The Appeal Board will be chaired jointly by founding chairman of the Grange Park Opera charity, Sir David Davies and leading philanthropist, Dame Vivien Duffield. They will also be joining the charity’s Board of Trustees which will continue to be chaired by Simon Freakley.

Sir David said:
“The Appeal has been set for £10 million which will cover the cost of building the new opera house with related fees and ample contingencies. An amount equal to nearly a third of the target has already been pledged from major donors in the two months leading up to the formal launch.”

Dame Vivien added:
“We want as many people as possible to feel a sense of shared ownership of the theatre, and a sense of belonging. This appeal is a huge opportunity to welcome people to the future of Grange Park Opera. These donors will all be creating a space which will let more young people become the performers and artists of the future.”

The Appeal has been structured to attract a wide range of donors. The new Appeal categories reflect the project’s pioneering spirit.

Hadron Collider
9 donors will have naming rights to areas of the Theatre for six figure donations

Sputnik, Turing and Sopwith (led by Joanna Lumley)
Gifts over £20,000 will be recognised on architectural features

The Circle of Virtuous Enterprise (led by Bryn Terfel)
2,000 individuals contributing £1,000 will be credited on a scroll in the theatre

The Theatre in the Woods will give Grange Park Opera greater reach than ever before.  Far from being an exclusive, single-use opera house, the Theatre in the Woods will be a springboard for dynamic, eager young people, which enables them to aspire to their potential. They will be able to showcase all manner of projects beyond opera: dance, string quartet masterclasses and much more. Each night of the season there will be 50 seats at £35 dedicated to under 30s.  This is in keeping with Grange Park Opera’s vision to nurture the next generation’s connection with the wider arts and to abolish the myth of elitism that surrounds opera today.

The Appeal’s joint Chair,  Sir David Davies, went on to say:
“This appeal is a rare chance to make a difference to the performing arts landscape. Combining West Horsley’s exquisite unfolding beauty with the reputation and knowhow of Grange Park Opera results in a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. The partnership brings new life to this undiscovered, mysterious idyll and will contribute to its conservation for many generations to come.” 

Wasfi Kani OBE, Founder of Grange Park Opera, said:
“With our Hadron Colliders and Sputniks leading the way, we also want to put donation within reach for more people who love the arts and opera. The Circle of Virtuous Enterprise, led by Bryn Terfel, is just the beginning of that element of our fundraising.”

Joanna Lumley OBE, Trustee and Appeal Patron, added:
West Horsley Place is a glorious sprawling ancient house, grand but welcoming, formal gardens with secret corners for picnickers and gazebos, a crinkle crankle wall extending the length of one garden and beyond into the orchard (too majestic to describe) and barns, outbuildings, aged trees and box hedges. It was waiting to be reborn through the fabulous generosity of Bamber Gascoigne and the energy and passion of everyone who loves Grange Park Opera. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create something truly unique in the arts outside London, breathing new life into this demi–Eden.  I am proud to help support this fundraising Appeal to achieve the charity’s very worthwhile objectives.” 

Bryn Terfel CBE commented:
“Singing with Grange Park Opera is life-affirming. These are people who want to bring a new generation to opera on and off the stage. I will be joining them on their journey. I hope you will participate with me in this initiative that is vital to the new Theatre in the Woods.”

Bamber Gascoigne added:
“It was obvious from the start that West Horsley Place is perfect for an opera festival. Roll on the first night!”

George Meagher, Board member of Grange Park Opera’s under-35s scheme, Meteors, said:
Our Meteor members will find West Horsley Place easier and more affordable to reach than ever before. I am sure that many people, including some of our 800 members, will want to take this chance to be a part of creating this wonderful space, which will open the door to the arts for so many. It’s incredibly exciting to be part of something that will become so iconic- I daresay it will be the nicest house that I ever help build!”

Media Enquiries & Publication Quality Photographs:
Elly Williamson, Bell Pottinger: 020 3772 2573

Notes to Editors

Sir David Davies
Sir David was the founding chairman of Grange Park Opera in 1998 and stepped down as a trustee in 2005.  He has always remained close to and supportive of the charity.

West Horsley Place
Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe, died in 2014, leaving West Horsley Place to Bamber Gascoigne. In an act of exceptional philanthropy Bamber Gascoigne has given the full freehold ownership of the house, land and ancillary buildings to The Mary Roxburghe Trust. The Trust wishes to introduce a range of uses focussing on arts and education to assist in the conservation of the estate and widen public access.

West Horsley Place is an exquisite 300-acre estate slumbering in the Surrey countryside. Antique box hedges, glowing brick façades, walled gardens and the historic orchard opens into a wooded glade soon to be home to the Theatre in the Woods. The 650-seat theatre is modelled on the four-tiered horseshoe shape of La Scala, Milan, with a vibrant acoustic, and a generous orchestra pit.

Phase I of the pioneering project commences in spring 2016 (subject to planning permission) and aims to achieve enough of the construction for the first performance in June 2017 when scaffolding will envelop an unfinished theatre.

Phase 2 continues after the 2017 festival and includes exterior brickwork.

Grange Park Opera
Since its inception in 1998, Grange Park Opera has performed to some 250,000 people with more than 50 productions and 450 performances. In 18 festivals, it has become a treasured feature of the international operatic landscape.

Grange Park Opera is a not-for-profit organisation. Sister charity Pimlico Opera, founded in 1987, has worked for 26 years in prison and each week the Primary Robins project gives a singing class to 1,600 children aged 7-11 in schools in deprived areas

Grange Park Opera’s support for the artists and audiences of the future

Giving younger artists a chance
Alongside international artists in principal roles, GPO employs 60 younger singers: in the chorus, as understudies and in smaller roles. Some are awarded scholarships to help them achieve their potential; sometimes small sums towards lessons or coaching to learn to cover a role, and in other cases more significant support.

Nurturing younger singers on their journey is key. They start in the chorus and after a year or two they might be given a small named role and they might “cover” (understudy) a role. Perhaps one day, they will be cast in a larger role.

By sharing the stage with international artists, they learn not only how to conduct themselves on stage, but also how to prepare, warm up, pace their performances and rest.

Broadening the audience demographic
At Grange Park Opera there are three initiatives to help younger people attend:

Meteors – this scheme for Under-30s was started in 2009. In January 2013 we formed a Meteor Board to represent their views and ideas. There are now 800 Meteors registered with Grange Park Opera who can buy seats for £35. Over the last three festivals they have bought 1,000 seats in total
Musical chairs – free seats for young people who simply would not otherwise be able to come to the opera. A further 500 performance tickets have been provided free.
• Schools – state and private schools are given free performance seats and dress rehearsal seats