No. 1 Ladies' Opera House to bring arias to Botswana's bushland

It may only be a matter of time before Precious Ramotswe is operatically trilling her way through her private investigations. Alexander McCall Smith, the author of The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, has founded Botswana's first opera house, The No. 1 Ladies' Opera House. But the writer, who is himself no mean bassoonist, is keeping his plans for a future world premiere at the new venue firmly under wraps. He's brimming with enthusiasm, however, over immediate plans for his latest project which opens with "a grand-ish concert" on 21 June, sponsored by the Edinburgh-based author.

The building has been transformed from a 1940s recruitment station for miners to an extraordinary performing arts centre cum café in the African bush, about 10 minutes from the capital, Gaborone. McCall Smith first spotted its potential during the making of a BBC documentary about his novels, struck by its resemblance to his fictional Speedy Motors garage, and discovered it was available for lease. In collaboration with the former director of the country's Maitisong Arts Festival, David Slater, their "wonderful, ridiculous idea" began to take shape. Seven staff have been recruited; the café opened a month ago – serving a McCall Smith breakfast special alongside traditional food – and rehearsals for the first musical event are under way.

"There's no tradition of opera here," says McCall Smith, "but choral singing is very popular and an enterprising trio has recently formed itself as the Three Botswana Tenors."

It's scarcely going to be your average Royal Opera House experience, with an auditorium seating between 60 and 80 and – at least for the opening concert – an electronic keyboard, a clavinova. Even a 10- to 12-strong chamber orchestra, brought in from Johannesburg, is a luxury Mr Slater thinks they can't afford at present. "The opening concert," he says, "will combine vocal and instrumental solos by young performers of Botswana, operatic scenes, arias and ensembles, and possibly marimba music from the SOS Children, who feature in the No.1 books."

With tickets costing between £6 and £10, the performances will be affordable, and McCall Smith is adamant that at each performance some seats will be cheaper or even free. "There's a big educational side to all this," he explains, "apart from the project's purpose as a showcase for local talent. I want to help organise training for singers, encourage artistic support at all levels and enrich lives by introducing an art form I suspect people will love. And though there won't be more than two operas each year, it will be an extremely useful venue for all sorts of arts events."

McCall Smith's next novel, La's Orchestra Saves the World, celebrating the healing power of music, is published in November. Meanwhile, auditions are taking place for the Christmas production at the No.1 Ladies' Opera House.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works