Booking opens today for this year’s Garsington Opera, but it’s been all-change for this most quintessential of ‘country house’ opera companies as this year they present three operas at the Getty family’s Wormsley Estate in Buckinghamshire for the first time.
The Wormsley Estate is a 2,500 acre traditional English country estate nestling at the northern end of the Hambelden Valley in the Chiltern Hills, close to Oxford. The philanthropist Sir Paul Getty II acquired Wormsley in 1986 and set about restoring the mansion, cottages, farm and estate buildings whilst also nurturing and replenishing the ancient broadleaf woodland that forms almost half of the estate, planted miles of hedgerow, and established the lake and 100-acre deer park. When Sir Paul died in 2003, Wormsley passed to Mark Getty.
The task of designing and building an opera house that would fit within an historic, romantic 19th century landscaped park, that would shelter an audience while enhancing both the idyllic views and some of the greatest music ever penned, and that could be built within weeks, and then be dismantled again for repeated annual use fell to architect Snell Associates.
Snell responded to the brief by designing an elegant and ingenious ‘floating’ pavilion design for Garsington Opera. It is a unique purpose-designed demountable pavilion, constructed from timber, steel and sail fabric which has been inspired by traditional Japanese architecture with its use of sliding screens, extended platforms, verandas and bridges to link it to the landscape. The pavilion will be seen to ‘float’ over the curbed ha-ha that provides the perfect orchestra pit and under-stage trap doors.
The auditorium will have 600 comfortable seats and through its transparent PVC sidewalls, audiences will be able to enjoy the setting and summer skies beyond the stage. Architect Robin Snell said: “The inspiration at Wormsley was the landscape. The pavilion will be raised above the ground, giving the appearance of floating above the landscape and it will include covered verandas and terraces, with places to linger and enjoy the views.
Garsington Opera has negotiated a 15-year lease with Wormsley and the season opens on 2 June and runs until 5 July. The company will present three new productions of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia and the British premiere of Vivaldi’s La verita in cimento.
Booking opens of 18 April and full details and casts can be found at www.garsingtonopera.org