From the Chairman, Simon Freakley

The 2020 Grange Park Opera season has not turned out as we had planned. We were looking forward to welcoming you on 4 June to our opening night – La Gioconda – followed by Meet Me in St Louis, La Bohème, guest artists from the Royal Ballet and a world première – our second – Anthony Bolton’s The Life & Death of Alexander Litvinenko – all in rapid succession.

It was going to be our best season yet, but then of course COVID–19 rearranged the world for all of us. Whilst it is enormously disappointing to have had to put the 2020 festival on ice, we have much to be grateful for. Loyal and steadfast support from our members, sponsors and ticket buyers has meant that we have been able to fund our costs for 2020 and also create an Artists–in–Need fund for our artists and technicians who now find themselves without work for the summer season and beyond. It is a source of tremendous pride for Wasfi and I that the whole GPO family has come together to help the Grange Park Opera artists, staff and technicians who make the season such a special fixture in all of our lives.

When we took the 99-year lease on the house and gardens at West Horsley Place, providing us with a long–term home, we knew that much would change in the years ahead. We didn’t, however, see a pandemic coming. Not withstanding the extreme disruption and challenge that this has caused to everyone, it is reassuring to know that this too will end and that we have long–term security to host many seasons to come. The extraordinary generosity of donors and members have made this all possible. Our splendid new opera house that together we have built will host many vibrant and successful festivals long after COVID–19 is firmly behind us.

The Great Pause that this has put on our lives over the past few months, has given us each the chance to reflect and take stock. We have all felt enormous admiration and appreciation for our National Health Service and our first responders. Their service to our communities is an inspiration. We have also had chance to reflect on the things that we really appreciate and value and I, like many of you, have been thinking of the contribution that the Arts play in our lives and our communities. We will be doing what we can during times of social distancing to play our part in keeping the Arts alive. For those of you who have not yet stumbled upon our weekly Amuse-Bouches, I recommend them to you for their mix of entertaining and edifying content.

When all seemed lost – the 2020 Season had become a Lost Season – the Grange Park Opera team with Wasfi on the prow of the great ship – pulled from the hat a few magnificent rabbits: a John Tavener world première, the Birthday Cheer initiative to raise more money for Artists-in-Need (our thanks to Bryn Terfel, Joseph Calleja, Simon Keenlyside and others) and the Found Season. Wynne Evans (Mr Go Compare) not only contributed to the Found Season and Birthday Cheer but has joined the Grange Park Opera trustee board. I am delighted and welcome him. To all trustees of Grange Park Opera and Pimlico Opera, I would like to extend deep gratitude for their engaged and steadfast support keeping GPO alive and well during this time of uncertainty.

Thank you all for being part of the Grange Park Opera family.