In this section
Only 23 miles from London, by the Surrey Hills, Grange Park Opera is one of the major summer opera festivals in Europe.
Founded in 1998 by Wasfi Kani OBE, Grange Park Opera has staged more than 75 operas, including the acclaimed productions of Rusalka, Tristan und Isolde, Peter Grimes, and Fiddler on the Roof with Bryn Terfel at the BBC Proms.
Its sister charity Pimlico Opera, founded in 1987, has presented co-productions with prisons for 26 years and has taken more than 50,000 members of the public into prison. Each week, its Primary Robins project gives a singing class to 2,000 KS2 children in schools in deprived areas.
Grange Park Opera held their last season at The Grange, in Hampshire, in 2016.
In 2017, Grange Park Opera relocated to West Horsley Place, Surrey.
West Horsley Place is a 350-acre estate with a glorious, sprawling 14th century house surrounded by formal gardens with secret corners, aged trees, box hedges and a majestic crinkle crankle wall.
The house was inherited in 2015 by author and broadcaster Bamber Gascoigne from his aunt Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe.
He gifted the estate to the Mary Roxburghe Trust.
In eleven months Wasfi Kani and her team built a five-storey opera house modelled on La Scala, Milan, seating 700.
The Times Arts Awards acknowledged the achievement as the “fastest construction of an opera house in history”.
Behind the house, an ancient orchard opens into a glade: the setting for the new Theatre in the Woods.
The opera house, glimpsed amongst the trees, appears as a cross-gartered brick drum and within is an intimate five-tiered auditorium.
The newly added colonnade creates a beautiful “passeggiata” (Italian for leisurely stroll), an area for the audience to foregather and linger ahead of a performance.
The larch columns of the colonnade are from a Sussex estate and fragrant roses have been planted at the base of each column.
The audience – invariably, but not exclusively in black tie and cocktail dresses – arrive from 4pm, have a glass of champagne and wander through the historic walled gardens where a convivial atmosphere reigns.
Dining in the long interval takes place in the 14th century house or in the Walnut Tree restaurant in the walled orchard.
Guests can picnic in Indian pavilions in the Crinkle-Crankle garden, on the Croquet Lawn, or in the Rose Parterre.
And when the opera ends, the audience walks out into a magical English landscape…