Grange Park Opera

The Theatre in the Woods, Grange Park Opera
The Theatre in the Woods at Grange Park Opera photo: Richard Lewisohn

Grange Park Opera is a professional opera company and charity whose base is West Horsley Place in Surrey, England. Founded in 1998, the company staged an annual opera festival at The Grange, in Hampshire and in 2016-7, built a new opera house 'Theatre in the Woods' at West Horsley Place – the 350-acre estate inherited by author and broadcaster Bamber Gascoigne in 2014.[1]

With five tiers of seating in a horseshoe shape (modelled on La Scala, Milan), the Theatre in the Woods is designed to target an optimum acoustic reverberation of 1.4 seconds.

Singers who have performed with Grange Park Opera include Bryn Terfel, Simon Keenlyside, Joseph Calleja, Claire Rutter, Rachel Nicholls, Bryan Register, Susan Gritton, Wynne Evans, Sally Matthews, Alfie Boe, Robert Poulton, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Sara Fulgoni, Clive Bayley and Alistair Miles. In recent years, the repertoire has included musicals: Fiddler on the Roof in 2015[2] and Oliver! in 2016.[3] Fiddler on the Roof was subsequently staged in the Royal Albert Hall as part of the 2015 BBC Proms.[4]

Grange Park Opera is a not-for-profit organisation. Its sister charity Pimlico Opera, founded in 1987, has staged co-productions with prisons since 1991 and taken more than 50,000 members of the public into prison.[5] Each week, the Primary Robins project gives a singing class to 2,000 KS2 children in schools in deprived areas.[6]

The 2020 season includes Puccini's La Bohème, Martin & Blane's Meet Me in St Louis, Ponchielli's La Gioconda, The Final Fling with The Royal Ballet and a world première: The Life & Death of Alexander Litvinenko.

The 700 seat auditorium at Grange Park Opera
The 700 seat auditorium at Grange Park Opera photo: Richard Lewisohn


West Horsley Place in Surrey, where Grange Park Opera perform during the summer season

In 1998, the newly-created charity was party to a three-way lease with English Heritage, guardians of The Grange, Northington and the owners, the Baring family.[7] For the first four seasons, performances took place in the Orangery, into which had been fitted raked seating (the seats themselves came from Covent Garden), stage and orchestra pit. For the 2002 season, the charity made significant changes to the auditorium which was expanded.[8] Seating capacity was increased to 550 with two levels of seating.,[9][8][9][10]

The festival was expanded to a five-week season of three operas in 2000,[11] and to four operas in 2013.[9]

In 2003, Grange Park Opera Hampshire season was extended to Nevill Holt, near Market Harborough in Leicestershire Leicestershire where a 300-seat theatre was built in the stable courtyard.[12][13][14][15] In 2012 Grange Park Opera handed the Leicestershire season to newly-formed Nevill Holt Opera.

In March 2015, the Barings, unexpectedly, terminated the Hampshire lease and, searching for a new home, Grange Park Opera was offered the opportunity to build an opera house close to London at West Horsley Place near Guildford – the 350-acre Surrey estate inherited by author and broadcaster Bamber Gascoigne. Planning permission for a five-storey opera house, modelled on La Scala, was granted in May 2016 and Phase 1 building work commenced immediately.[16] The opera house was ready in time for the long-scheduled production of Tosca starring Joseph Calleja which premiered on 8 June 2017.[17] Phase 2 continued after the 2017 festival and including the exterior brickwork and a Lavatorium Rotundum.[18] Phase 3 included a colonnade whose columns are larch tree trunks.

Bamber Gascoigne placed his inheritance into a charity, the Mary Roxburgh Trust, who have granted Grange Park Opera a 99-year lease.

Performance historyEdit

The company has staged both traditional and unexpected repertoire including:

Under-35s schemesEdit

  • The "Meteors" scheme is open to opera fans aged between 18 and 35. Meteors can apply for tickets on selected dates at a flat rate of £35 per ticket.[19]
  • The "Musical Chairs" scheme is open to young people aged 14 – 25 who otherwise could not come to the opera.[20]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ "Bamber Gascoigne to save 500-year-old manor after 'accidental' inheritance". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  2. ^ Hall, George (5 June 2015). "Fiddler on the Roof review – Bryn Terfel outstanding in focused, vigorous production". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  3. ^ "Grange Park Opera's Oliver!: great show, shame about the audience – review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  4. ^ "Prom 11: Fiddler on the Roof – Prom 11: Fiddler on the Roof". BBC Music Events. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  5. ^ "Pimlico Opera | History of Pimlico Opera". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  6. ^ "Pimlico Opera | Primary Schools". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  7. ^ Deitz, Paula. "Midsummer Night's Idyll: Opera in the Orangery", The New York Times 23 May 1999. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  8. ^ a b Clements, Andrew. Anything Goes, The Guardian (London), 17 June 2002. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  9. ^ a b c Reynolds, Mike. Wasfi Kani in Conversation and Grange Park Opera's 2013 Season, 10 May 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  10. ^ Christiansen, Rupert. "The house that Wasfi built", The Daily Telegraph (London), 3 June 2002. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  11. ^ Reynolds, Mike. "The irresistible rise of Grange Park Opera",, 11 May 2012. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  12. ^ Vorasarun, Chaniga. "Opera Man", Forbes, 3 July 2008. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  13. ^ Blackwell, Alex (14 June 2014). "Plans revealed for permanent Nevill Holt theatre". Harborough Mail. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  14. ^ Opera at Nevill Holt, Grange Park Opera website
  15. ^ Kimberley, Nick. "Best garden operas in London", London Evening Standard, 19 May 2010. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  16. ^ Edwards, Mark (20 January 2016). "Plea to raise £10 million for new West Horsley Place opera house". getsurrey. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  17. ^ "Grange Park Opera's new £10m plot". Financial Times. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  18. ^ "The Theatre in the Woods – GRANGE PARK OPERA". GRANGE PARK OPERA. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  19. ^ "Under 35 – GRANGE PARK OPERA". GRANGE PARK OPERA. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  20. ^ "Musical Chairs – GRANGE PARK OPERA". GRANGE PARK OPERA. Retrieved 8 November 2016.

Further reading

External linksEdit