57. Longborough Festival Opera
Few villages can claim to have an opera house in their midst, but each summer thousands of opera lovers flock to the usually sleepy north Cotswold village of Longborough, near Stow-on-the-Wold, for month-long festival.
Longborough Festival Opera (LFO), founded by Lizzie and Martin Graham, is based at New Banks Fee where a barn was converted into a theatre, using seats from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, which were being discarded during refurbishment.
The Longborough opera house has an intimate auditorium seating just under 500, with an orchestra pit for up to 70 players.
Evening performances take place for about a month during late June and July, usually starting at 6pm or 6.30pm with a 90-minute interval for picnicking in the grounds or dining in the popular LFO restaurants.
LFO started life in 1991 as Banks Fee Opera. After a series of chamber music concerts in the drawing room of Banks Fee, Travelling Opera, a small touring opera company, was invited to give two charity performances with a small orchestra on a temporary stage in the courtyard of the stable block.
The opera evenings, with picnic interval, proved very popular. Over the years, steadily increasing audiences enjoyed productions of well-known operas such as Cosi fan tutte, The Marriage of Figaro, The Barber of Seville, La Bohème, Don Giovanni, La Traviata, The Magic Flute and Carmen.
Longborough Festival Opera was founded after the founders' move to New Banks Fee and its performances have increasingly become associated with Wagner. LFO is the first privately owned opera house to have staged a full-length production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
LFO has since 2003 been involved in education projects for in two ways: through workshops in local schools and productions for young artists to perform. The 2012 education production was Sweeney Todd and local children are often featured in the festival's productions.
The company runs workshops in schools and at Longborough as well as offering work experience.
The 2015 LFO programme runs from June 12 to July 26.
One first-time visitor to Longborough in 2014 was Zena Drew from Cheltenham, who was invited by a friend to witness the opening night of The Barber of Seville.
"What a marvellous evening," she said. "I had forgotten how much I enjoyed live classical music and the orchestra was first class."
With a choice of restaurants, Zena opted for the buffet marquee and she enjoyed a delicious meal during the 90-minute interval.
She added: "This venue is a beautiful setting for a visit to the opera and we were fortunate to have a very mild evening. I would highly recommend a visit to this hidden Cotswold gem."
Longborough Festival Opera