Interview with Grange Park Opera CEO Wasfi Kani

Grange Park 2013 © Robert Workman

Grange Park 2013 © Robert Workman - Credit: Robert Workman Photographer

Wasfi Kani, CEO and Founder of Grange Park Opera explains why you don’t need to know anything about this amazing theatrical experience to enjoy it

You founded Grange Park in 1998, where did the idea originate from?

In 1993 Michael Moody and I were working at Garsington Opera in Oxfordshire. One evening, just before the performance I asked Michael “So...what do you want to do with the rest of your life?” He replied “Build a theatre”. I did as well. And that is how it all started.

When did your love of opera start?

I came to opera late in life. First I was a violinist thrashing through all the symphonic repertoire and chamber music. Being able to play chamber music I regard as the greatest joy of my life.

You went from working with computers to training as a conductor, what instigated such a career change?

I’d read Music at Oxford so I knew a fair bit about music. I’d also done a lot of maths. Being a computer programmer I was able to feed, clothe and house myself. When I became 30, I imagined being 80 and looking back at my life. I realised I would regret having not done more with music and so I started having conducting lessons.

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What were you doing before Grange Park Opera ?

Before Grange Park Opera was created there was Pimlico Opera, which involved touring and working in prisons. We still work in prisons: Sister Act in HMP Bronzefield was our 23rd co-production with prisoners. Pimlico Opera also works in Primary Schools and gives 380 less-advantaged children a half hour singing class every week.

Now that it is established, what has been your fondest moment at Grange Park?

I particularly love picking the sweet peas and roses to make bouquets for the first night. We could buy them, but the personal touch is very important to the mood of the place.

Tell us why opera is something everyone should experience in their lifetime

Opera is about feelings. We control our actions but not our feelings. You don’t need to know anything about opera to enjoy it. You just sit in your seat and whatever ideas, memories or feelings come into your heart and your head is correct. Hold them, treasure them and knit them into the tapestry of life’s joyful moments.

If you could see one thing at Grange Park this summer, what would it be?

Peter Grimes is a piece of theatre with music. The 1820 fishing huts open up to reveal the stormy sea, the pub (where two nieces are the “main attractions”) - it’s a real Aladdin’s cave. The drama is intense, there is a huge noisy chorus and the emotional orchestral sea interludes will remind you of your favourite film scores. Bring a box of tissues.


Wasfi Kani’s Favourites

Favourite Hampshire restaurant: Chesil Rectory, 1 Chesil Street, Winchester

Favourite Hampshire walk: The watermeadows in Winchester

Favourite place to stay: Lime Wood Hotel in the New Forest

Favourite place for tea and cake: Lainston House, Sparsholt, Winchester

Favourite place for a glass of wine: Hotel du Vin, Southgate Street, Winchester


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