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Curtains up at Snell's Garsington opera house

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Snell Associates has completed its 600-seat ‘demountable’  temporary opera house for Garsington Opera

Constructed from timber, steel and sail fabric, the pavillion-like structure at Garsington Opera’s new Wormsley estate venue in the Chiltern Hills will open for the inaugural performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute on 2 June 2011.

Practice founder Robin Snell said: ‘The inspiration at Wormsley was the landscape. The pavilion is raised above the ground, giving the appearance of floating above the landscape and it includes covered verandas and terraces, with places to linger and enjoy the views.’ 

Previous story (AJ 18.09.10)

Snell on song for Garsington opera

Snell Associates Architects has won planning permission for this temporary opera house for Garsington Opera

The timber, fabric and steel auditorium will be built for next year’s summer festival (June 2011 onwards) which is being held for the first time in the Wormsley Estate, High Wycombe - a traditional country estate on the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire border.

The lightweight structure, which will be erected annually, has been conceived as a ‘floating pavilion’ and, according to the practice, was inspired by the Katsura Palace west of Kyoto and traditional Japanese Kabuki theatres.

Snell Associates Architects' temporary opera house for Garsington Opera at its new home in the Wolmsley Estate - interior view

Snell Associates Architects’ temporary opera house for Garsington Opera at its new home in the Wolmsley Estate - interior view

Practice founder Robin Snell said: ‘I was the project architect at Hopkins for the new Glyndebourne Opera House - the last new one in the UK last century -and here I am doing the first one this century.’

Work on the project is expected to start next month

The architect’s view

The site allows the division of areas between front of house gardens and back of house technical spaces, which remain screened from view.

The ha-ha, separating the home farm buildings and main house from the park itself, follows the contours of the land and naturally creates the orchestra pit and under-stage trap room.

concept section

Snell Associates Architects’ temporary opera house for Garsington Opera at its new home in the Wolmsley Estate - concept section



The layout of the new structure is planned to allow the auditorium, verandas and terraces to face towards the landscape views, ideal places to gather and picnic. The stage, side stages and backstage store rooms are discretely located to the rear of the theatre next to the surrounding woodland, screening the areas from public view and allowing easy access for sets and performers.

The new auditorium is planned on similar lines to the existing temporary auditorium at Garsington, to maintain its intimacy, whilst providing up to 600 seats and 6 wheelchair positions.

Both seat widths and leg room are increased in the new house to improve audience comfort.
Audience sightlines to the stage will be very good.The width of the new auditorium is similar to old Garsington Opera and the rear wall will only be two rows further back. The intimate feeling of the space will be retained and the auditorium ceiling and walls will be specially designed to improve the room acoustic.
Views over the gardens and surrounding landscape from within the auditorium during performances are possible. This maintains the link with the outside and continues the tradition of Garsington Opera - a summer opera in a landscaped garden setting. At Wormsley the views will perhaps be less towards a formal garden and more towards the natural landscaped parkland.

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