Actor Joanna Lumley was among the guests at the topping out ceremony of a new 700-seat “theatre in the woods” at West Horsley Place.
The Grange Park Opera is in the process of building the new theatre in the grounds of the estate which was left to Bamber Gascoigne by Mary Innes-Ker, the Duchess of Roxburghe.
Mrs Lumley, who is a patron of Grange Park Opera and supported the planning application to build the new theatre, was joined by Wasfi Kani, founder of Grange Park Opera, and soprano Claire Rutter at the ceremony to commemorate the roof being put on the theatre on Saturday November 12.
David Lloyd Jone, a consultant architect who is managing the project, said: “Joanna Lumley led three cheers for Christina and Bamber Gascoigne.
“Christina announced the imminent cutting and distribution of a magnificent cake and Martin Smith explained the tradition of topping out – the purpose of the gathering.
“It seems that the tradition goes back to the pharos with evidence in 2,700 BC of a live tree in a topping out ceremony for one of the earliest stone temples.”
Grange Park Opera was forced to move from its home in Northington, Hampshire, after failing to agree a new lease.
Wasfi Kani, who established Grange Park Opera in 1998, approached Mr Gascoigne with the proposition to move to West Horsley Place.
Joanna Lumley and husband Stephen Barlow attended the planning meeting at Guildford Borough Council in support of the application.
The opening of the new opera house will be marked by the 2017 Grange Park Opera Festival, which will run from June 8 to July 15 and will feature opera superstars Joseph Calleja and Bryn Terfel.
The theatre is expected to contribute financially to the restoration of West Horsley Place.