Where? Alresford, Hampshire
What? The Grange Festival is an event series dedicated to performing world-class opera in the heart of Hampshire. This year’s line-up includes Agrippina, The Barber of Seville, The Abduction from the Seraglio and Candide and many more. Be sure not to miss DANCE@THEGRANGE, directed by Wayne McGregor & Edward Watson, the evening event aims to bring a touch of world class dance to the festival.
Artistic Director, Michael Chance CBE shares why Grange is special.
How does this year’s festival contrast or build from the work of others? ‘When planning my first festival for 2017, I looked at what had been staged at The Grange since the start of opera there 18 years before. It was obvious both to fill some of the gaps but also build on some of what had clearly worked in the theatre and been popular. The theatre itself is terrifically flexible and intimate. I have seen how really imaginatively staged and brilliantly sung baroque operas have caught the imagination all over Europe and that was clearly, also with The Grange’s historical and aesthetic context, an area worth exploring. And Mozart operas featured less than I expected. So we start this year with his musical theatre, The Abduction from the Seraglio, and continue next year with The Marriage of Figaro.I wanted to present classy comedy and satire, as well as searingly beautiful lyricism and involving drama. I believe we have all that this year. The Barber of Seville, opera’s most popular comedy, and Candide, Bernstein’s whacky and brilliant Broadway show, complete the sung bill of fare. But quite separate and distinct from all of these are two evenings of Dance and Ballet, which have really caught the imagination, and look likely to be the start of a beautiful friendship.’
What is the way to get the most out of attending Grange? ‘Arrive early. Leave late. Take your time. Revel in the landscape. People watch. Meet old friends. And have the beauty of the house and the landscape present in your minds as the doors to the theatre are closed behind you, and you are transported into a magical musical world. Oh, and eat and drink as the fussiest epicurean would desire. ‘
Is there a feature or salient characteristic of Grange that makes it unlike any other arts festival? ‘It is commonly held to be the most jaw-droppingly beautiful of all the country house opera festival locations. And the award winning theatre fully complements with acoustics and sight-lines as good as anywhere. The artistic aspirations of what goes on the stage are on an international level. And we now offer the new ingredient of Dance – under the visionary Wayne Mcgregor, and starring this summer Ed Watson, Marianella Nuñèz, Calvin Richardson, and many others. I believe we are unique in adding dance at this level.’
Are there any 2018 themes or trends that have inspired or influenced the material in the festival? ‘In an age of fakery, humbug and dread, I want audiences to forget, if only for an evening, these lowering clouds darkening our lives. The mood of this year is joy, fun, comedy, and gentle satire. When opera gets those right, it stays with you for a long time.’
Where to stay? The Wellington Arms, Baughurst, Hampshire. There’s something pretty special about ‘The Welly’. It’s a real foodies’ pub, owned and run with great charm by Simon Page (front of house) and Jason King (award-winning chef). Set in countryside on the Hampshire/Berkshire border, it has a burgeoning kitchen garden and a field where hens, bees, sheep and pigs are kept. The dining room – there are just 12 highly prized tables – is delightfully informal. There are four bedrooms: the Apartment is a one-bedroom suite above the pub. Then, tucked away in a converted 17th-century, oak-framed hay store are two striking guest rooms, all exposed brickwork and timber beams, and outside a green oak barn, the Cart House. Doubles from £110.
Found out more in our round-up of the best small & boutique festivals of 2018.