Everything from saxophone concertos to beloved oratorios.
Because we tend to associate Nevill Holt Opera with the summer season, it is easy to overlook its equally inspiring winter festival. Days may be shorter, picnics may be out and the gardens may have changed over the intervening months, but with the concerts being performed in the venue’s intimate and beautiful 400 seat opera house, installed inside an historic stable block courtyard, the atmosphere is no less magical. Designed by Stirling Prize winning architects Witherford Watson Mann in conjunction with theatre designers Sound Space Vision, it is still the only opera house ever to have been nominated for the RIBA Stirling Prize, and it is hard to picture anything more delightful than listening to Handel’s Messiah within its candlelit interior.
The festival begins on 2 December when saxophonist Jess Gillam is joined by the strings section of Manchester Camerata. Gillam was a finalist in BBC Young Musician 2016, appeared at The Last Night of the Proms in 2018 and presents This Classical Life on BBC Radio 3. The programme promises to have a festive flair and will include some of the most celebrated works for the saxophone. One of the highlights will be Glazunov’s Concerto in E flat major for alto saxophone and string orchestra, Op. 109, which was the only concerto for the instrument (at least of any renown) between 1934 when it was written and 2013 when John Adams’ own premiered.
“…with the concerts being performed in the venue’s intimate and beautiful 400 seat opera house… the atmosphere is no less magical”
The following evening sees the return of Nevill Holt’s highly acclaimed Messiah by candlelight. Following their success in 2021, Manchester Camerata joins the festival once more to perform Handel’s masterpiece. With the audience gazing on the orchestra amidst the flickering flames, it is difficult to picture a more conducive setting for this oratorio that is such a favourite over the Christmas season. Solo performances will come from Nevill Holt Festival’s Associate and Emerging Artists, while Nevill Holt’s Artistic Director Nicholas Chalmers conducts. The following afternoon (4 September) there will be a follow up performance at Manchester Monastery, home of Manchester Camerata, enabling people who live in the vicinity of either venue to enjoy this special occasion.
Nicholas Chalmers commented “Alongside our fantastic and versatile orchestral partner, Manchester Camerata, we are excited to be bringing you a weekend of exceptional music. Jess Gillam will launch our festive season with an uplifting and energetic programme, and by popular demand, we are following that with our annual performances of Messiah at the festival and in Manchester. Showcasing some of the finest young singers in the UK, Nevill Holt Festival’s Messiah has played to sold-out audiences since 2018. We can’t wait to welcome audiences back to our home as we launch our plans for the 10th anniversary season in 2023.”
• Nevill Holt Opera’s 2022 Winter Festival runs from 2 to 4 December. For tickets for events at the venue visit the NHO website.
• For tickets for the performance at Manchester Monastery visit the Manchester Camerata website.