Richard Morrison: How to build an opera house for a song — and in less than a year

June 2, 2017

Richard Morrison, The Times

We all know Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if Wasfi Kani had been in charge I’m pretty sure the eternal city would have gone up in 12 months. And at no cost to the senate, because Kani — one of the most driven individuals I’ve ever known — would probably have talked private donors into paying for it.

She has just given me a tour of the new theatre that, from next Thursday, will house her Grange Park Opera. Thank goodness something useful will come out of election day! A year ago this site was nothing but boggy woodland outside the garden wall of West Horsley Place in Surrey — the crumbling Tudor pile unexpectedly inherited by Bamber Gascoigne after the death of his great-aunt, the Duchess of Roxburghe. “It was on June 20 last year,” Kani says, “that we started driving 19m concrete piles into the ground, at the rate of 15 a day. The engineers said we needed 146 of them to put the building on.”

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