THE Grange Festival wants to make more of its unique setting as an opera venue.

The festival is proposing a refit of the Grange Theatre and improvements to the road access and setting of Northington Grange, near Alresford.

Among the proposals are a new road to replace the bumpy track and footpaths linking the house to the lake.

It is extending its fundraising campaign to refit the Grange Theatre in advance of a new era at the much-loved site.

The Grange Festival was formed earlier this year following the departure of Grange Park Opera to Surrey. Its launch is on June 7.

Now following an agreement between the landlords of the Grange theatre, the Baring family, English Heritage − guardians of the site − and Grange Park Opera, the outgoing tenants, terms have been fixed for the latter’s departure by November 8.

GPO take with them key items, leaving the theatre empty. The red velvet seats, chandeliers in the theatre and house together with some vital stage equipment and flying bars have been removed and The Grange Festival extends its major fundraising efforts to ensure a high-quality refit in time for the new season.

Founder supporters have already pledged £1.6million.

out of a total £3million target to re-equip and refurbish the theatre and ensure that opera lovers can enjoy a broader range of performances in better conditions.

The Baring family − which also owns the estate in which the historic Greek revival mansion sits − have begun a re-landscaping restoration project. Working closely with eminent landscape architect Kim Wilkie, the Barings aim to restore the parkland to its original Arcadian glory, opening-up vistas of the lake and creating a new drive into the park, to mirror the original approach to the house.

Mark Baring said: “We are much looking forward to working with the Grange Festival to ensure that a full season of opera will be presented in 2017 under the artistic leadership of Michael Chance.

“We are also fortunate that some key members of our former tenant’s staff have joined the Grange Festival to ensure the smooth running of the new company. As landlords we are excited by the innovative ideas for the Festival and delighted to be able to play our part by restoring the parkland to further increase the pleasure of an evening at The Grange.”

Michael Moody, general manager of The Grange Festival said: “This fundraising challenge will allow us to create a theatre fit for the 21st century needs of the audience as well as artistic teams. We are excited by the prospect of embracing this challenge and installing more comfortable seating, better backstage facilities and stage equipment for our directors that will enable their artistic visions to be presented to a world class standard. I want to thank the Baring family for their skill and generosity in reaching this position and giving us the opportunity to roll up our sleeves and do something truly magical in this unrivalled setting.”

Michael Chance, artistic director of The Grange Festival, added: “The response from so many Patrons and Friends keen to support a bright and exciting future for this much-loved theatre has been heart-warming indeed. Our fundraising has started well and is reaching its targets as planned however the new challenge of equipping the theatre will require a fresh effort. The opportunity to create something that will captivate and entrance our audience is one we readily embrace. We hope many will join us and be a part of this new chapter in the life of the fabulous theatre that is The Grange.”

Opening in June 2017, The Grange Festival is dedicated to building on the great tradition of opera productions in the award-winning theatre of The Grange, Hampshire. Audiences will be able to enjoy a wider range of work there than ever before, with each new production bringing together carefully selected world-class artistic teams to create experiences of the highest quality.

In its first season, opening on June 7, The Grange Festival presents three operas that have never been staged at The Grange: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bizet’s Carmen and Britten’s Albert Herring.