So you want to put on an Opera?

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So you want to put on an opera? Two years ago Fulham Opera started and are doing just that on a tight budget. Their next production is Die Fledermaus in St John’s church in Fulham. You can get information and buy tickets here. So you want to put on an opera and build an opera house?

Now that’s a big call especially if you want to build in the Green Belt in Surrey. Where to build it, how much will it cost and how long will it take? Ask Wasfi Kani OBE. Her Grange Park Opera company left The Grange in Hampshire at the end of their summer season this year in search of a new home.

Serendipitously, Bamber Gasgoine had inherited a Tudor pile in Surrey and wanted to use it for cultural and charitable purposes. The gardens are spacious and there’s room for an opera house. In June 2016 this was a plan but with no planning permission, no money and an impossibly tight time-line if the curtain is to go up in June 2017. I was sceptical but my doubts have been confounded.

First you need to know where West Horsley Place is. It is off the A3 about 45 minutes drive from London. The red pin marks the spot and I was there on Sunday morning.

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Wasfi got planning permission and is on schedule to open her opera house in June next year. Oh, the money … nearly there! It will cost £10 million – remarkably good value in my opinion – and she has raised more than £6 million so far. It is incredible to have achieved so much, so expeditiously and with a very small core team of helpers.

You want to see what it looks like? Be Wasfi’s guest and take a look at the picture I took on Sunday morning.

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In the foreground in profile is our guide, Wasfi. The cement foundations in a half circle are the base for the curved wall behind the stalls and if you use some imagination you are looking at the stage beyond that. It will have 750 seats and four layers of seating is expected to give enough height in the auditorium to create a good acoustic.

I must go and eat my hat now as I never imagined that this ambitious project could be brought to fruition so speedily.

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