The splendid photograph on the right surely says all that is necessary about the wonderful landscape surrounding Garsington Opera’s new home on Mark Getty’s Wormsley Estate, in the Chilterns.

Enjoying my first sight of it last Thursday, a glass of my favourite Veuve Clicquot in hand and the prospect of two hours or so of The Magic Flute to come, I felt almost as if I had been transported to heaven.

Any reader, incidentally, who still entertains doubts about my earthly existence will find a close study of the party photograph shows me happily present among the living.

Let me now prise other famous men into this article — in accordance with another Gray Matter tradition — by mentioning that the crowd also included the former Prime Minister Sir John Major and one-time Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington as well as the broadcasters Lord Bragg and Jeremy Paxman (when, pray, a gong for him?).

Sir Terry Wogan, a member of the opera company’s advisory council, was not among the first-night audience. My colleague Giles Woodforde saw him on Monday, however, at the second performance of Gioacchino Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia. He occupied an adjacent stall in the lavatories.

It was actually in (or rather just coming out of) the loos that I spotted Sir John Major. I was just noting the fact that the building has been draped with some of the huge tree-patterned sound-baffling curtains that used to keep the music from Garsington Manor’s complaining neighbours, when the ex-PM and his wife Norma stepped from beneath the ‘foliage’.

Later, sitting in architect Robin Snell’s £3.5mm, 600-seat opera pavilion, I became aware of another reminder of the old Garsington. To the right is a formal garden, laid out with old-fashioned, scented roses, peonies, and early-flowering herbaceous plants, in partial imitation of that found at the manor. It was the work of the appropriately named Hannah Gardner, Garsington’s gardener.

While my interest in gardens is not great, I nonetheless took advantage of a new feature of the Garsingon experience, which is to take a trip through the estate roads to Wormsley’s beautiful 18th-century walled garden. The journey was made (as it can be every night during the festival) in a 1962 Bedford coach of the sort I remember with mixed emotions —long a martyr to travel sickness — from seaside outings in childhood.

The garden’s features include an outdoor theatre in which local schoolchildren will be performing as part of the opera company’s education programme.

The opera pavilion’s design was inspired by traditional Japanese Kabuki theatre and architecture, in particularly the famous Katsura Palace, near Kyoto. Permanent as it feels, it can be completely put away at the festival’s close (as it will be) in just two weeks, leaving only a few holes in the ground.

Much of the rest of the ‘festival village’, as I might style it, is temporary too, though not the splendid green wooden pavilion beside the estate’s famous ‘billiard table’ cricket pitch, long used for celebrity games and the like.

Two marquees are the focus of the festival’s dining operation, in the capable hands of Jamie Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts, which has its headquarters in Bicester. In my judgment, it appeared that far more were ‘dining in’ than was the case at the old venue. A few people had pitched camp around the lake: it amused some of us enjoying the free champagne that their German-tourists-on-the-beach approach meant they were missing the fun.

Rosemarie and I booked in for dinner, reckless as to its £55-a- head price, before wine. The cost was significantly more, in fact, since three of our dishes — the ones we really fancied — attracted a £5 supplement.

These were the main courses of pot-roasted Cornish lamb with Sicilian-style aubergine stew and halibut roasted in pancetta with asparagus, and the dessert of Oxfordshire cheeses with chutney, grapes and toasted fruit loaf. All were delicious but so long in arriving, owing to an unexplained problem in the kitchen, that we felt just a little short changed.