Wasfi Kani, CEO / Founder of Grange Park Opera
, Surrey, has been awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2021 New Year Honours list, for services to music.
The New Year Honours lists recognise the achievements and service of people across the UK, from all walks of life. Along with the Queens Birthday Honours, they are the most significant announcements of civilian and military gallantry awards.
With live theatre performances in summer 2020 severely restricted by Covid-19, Grange Park Opera and its indomitable CEO Wasfi Kani were never going to let that stand in their way. The company engaged 157 artists for their Found and Interim seasons in 50 new online, free to view events with 22 hours of entirely new material. These events include FOUR staged operas - all lesser-known pieces - and concerts both indoors and outdoors. Payments were made to 146 Artists-in-Need (including backstage staff).
Commenting on her achievements in 2020 Wasfi said Covid-19 actually gave us a unique opportunity to share the magic of great musical experiences - which are original, stimulating and food for the soul - with as many people as possible around the world. We are immensely proud to have done more than any other UK opera company during the pandemic, leading the arts pack out of lockdown and staying ahead.
The Found and Interim season have had more than 70,000 views.
Wasfi received an OBE in the New Years Honours List 2002 for her work in bringing her second opera company, Pimlico Opera, into prisons.
Reacting to her CBE, Wasfi said First and foremost I must say that this is a joint achievement: an achievement of my colleagues as well as the generous people who believe in Grange Park Operas vision which is sometimes weird and sometimes traditional. I thank and curtsey to them.
Wasfi Kani CBE, CEO Grange Park Opera, was born in 1956 in Cable Street in Londons East End, and is almost certainly the only opera impresario who spent her childhood in a house with an outside lavatory. A violinist, she played for the National Youth Orchestra and went on to study music at St Hildas College, Oxford. After 10 years in the city, programming and designing financial computer systems, she started a small computer consultancy which gave her the flexibility to spend more time conducting. By 1993, she had made music her full-time career. In 1992, Wasfi was made Chief Executive of Garsington Opera in Oxford. In 1998, Kani founded her own opera company, Grange Park Opera, which in 2016 moved to West Horsley Place. Wasfi Kani is an Honorary Fellow of the RIBA and St Hildas College, Oxford. She received an OBE in the New Years Honours List 2002 for her work in bringing her second opera company, Pimlico Opera, into prisons.
Grange Park Opera was founded in 1998 by Wasfi Kani, CBE. Since then, it has performed to over 300,000 people with more than 75 productions and 450 performances, during the course of 22 festivals. Productions take place at the Theatre in the Woods, a five-tiered, 700-seat opera house on the estate of the 14th century West Horsley Place, which was inherited by Bamber Gascoigne from his aunt, the Duchess of Roxburghe. The £11.5m cost of the building was raised by Kani herself from private donations in just one year.