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.

News
Alex Salmond said he accepted 'the democratic verdict of the people'
newsSNP leader says Scotland must move forward as 'one nation'
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Foundation Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Nursery Teacher position in Devon Dev...

Primary Teacher

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: ***KS1 & KS2 Teachers ...

Nursery Assistant Plymouth

£10000 - £20000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week