A MAJOR Hampshire opera festival held an open day in the lead-up to its opening night.

The Grange Festival at Northington, near Alresford, opened its doors to more than a thousand people for a day of family fun. There were activities for all ages around the site, including pony rides provided by Northington Stub and Stables.

Guests had the chance to see the improvements to the park, house and theatre, as well as hear about the upcoming festival in June, which will feature 19 performances of three operas and two concerts.

Attendees at the open day were the first to sit in the new seats in the theatre for a performance of Handel’s Acis and Galatea given by students from the Royal Academy of Music.

Musical animator Peter Gritton held an interactive theatre event for children to explain the mysteries of the music in the operas that will be performed at the festival.

Peter has worked with fans at Chelsea Football Club and devised their own symphony of chants.

He can convince guests to sing opera arias without realising it, and shed light on what opera is really about and why some great tunes stay in our minds.

A number of food and drink stalls were on offer including Danebury Vineyards, the event’s sponsor, Winchester Distillery’s Twisted Nose Gin Bar, Itchen Valley Brewery, Flat Whites Winchester, Grey Sparrow Kitchen, Little Pub Group Peroni Bar and Jake’s Artisan Foods.

Festival spokesperson Emma Neal said: “The sun shone and locals came along in great numbers. ‘The Grange Festival started today’ was the general consensus.”

The festival opens on June 7 and runs until July 9.