ONE of Hampshire's premier cultural events has been saved.

Grange Park Opera has announced its departure from Northington Grange in Alresford after nearly 20 years, but the Baring family, which owns the historic estate, has stepped in.

It will offer a lease to a newly established company, the Grange Festival in 2017, adding community events to its admired musical programme to build on the well-regarded operatic legacy.

The family also intends to develop more events alongside the festival and encourage greater community involvement.

Mark Baring, who owns the Georgian mansion with his father, Lord Ashburton, said: "We were very determined to make sure that the opera festival continues – A, we think it's in the interests of the estate, but B, we also think there's a lot of local support for it and indeed other support for it. We don't want to see it disappear.

"We think it's a great thing for Hampshire and the economy."

Grange Park Opera, which helped convert the mansion into a music venue in 1998 and will run its final season there next year, is reportedly in talks with former TV presenter Bamber Gascoigne to move to his Surrey home.

Trustees fell out with the family over the terms of a new rolling 10-year lease, understood to include contributions to the maintenance of the once-derelict building.

Millions of pounds were raised towards its restoration at the turn of the millennium, turning Grange Park into a fixture of the high-brow opera circuit.

Now the Baring family promises to bring the town back into the fold with more community events, including weddings and parties.

Lisa Griffiths, chairman of Alresford Town Council, welcomed efforts to bring the wider community into the fold.

She said Grange Park Opera "attracted a certain type of people to the events they ran. It's become less common for local people to be involved.

"It's such a lovely place that I think it's got to be available to open it to the wider community. They're going in the right direction."

However, she added some people "won't like" the estate holding extra events throughout the year.

Mr Baring said the charity running the festival may collaborate with other opera firms to help fund productions.

He added: "We've done a couple of weddings and we'd like to get into that business in a bigger way - events and parties and suchlike."

The new festival will be directed by acclaimed counter tenor Michael Chance, who promised to uphold the venue's operatic legacy.

He said: “I am particularly excited about the range of possibilities which this extraordinary venue, and jewel of a theatre, offers.

"I am confident that more than three decades of treading boards and vocal communication will stand me in good stead for this exhilarating challenge, and I look forward to building on the 18-year operatic legacy at Grange Park, which has been truly remarkable. My first task is to assemble a small experienced management team.”

A board of trustees is being formed and will be chaired by Sir Charles Haddon-Cave.

A Grange Park Opera spokesman said: "We were obviously very disappointed that our lease was unilaterally terminated early by our landlords but it is business as usual and we look forward to the Grange Park Opera Festival at The Grange in 2016."

To register interest in the new festival, go to: