Opera + Classical Music Features

Preview: Nevill Holt Opera’s New 2020 Season

Opera Houses around the country continue to find innovative solutions to lockdown. Sam Smith tells us the latest.

Nevill Holt Opera

Nevill Holt Opera (Photo: Robert Workman)

While the coronavirus has disrupted every summer opera festival in the country, not all venues have given up on the idea of being able to present something this season. Grange Park Opera, after looking at what it had lost, came up with a Found Season comprising predominantly online performances, Glyndebourne Festival Opera is presenting a series of garden-based events, and now Nevill Holt Opera has announced six concerts that will take place on its estate in late August and early September.

Two concerts will take place on each of 29 August, 5 September and 12 September, with the first event lasting from 13.00 to 15.30 and the second from 16.00 to 18.30. Reflecting the company’s commitment to nurturing up-and-coming singers in the UK, each concert will feature at least five of NHO’s Young Artists.

An English Country Garden will be on Saturday, 29 August when audiences will be entertained with a selection of English folk songs in arrangements by, among others, Grainger, Elgar and Parry. Summer Shakespeare will take place on Saturday, 5 September and will see NHO Young Artists, accompanied by double bass and piano, sing John Rutter’s Birthday Madrigals and songs and sonnets by George Shearing. These works are written in the jazz style and use some of Shakespeare’s most famous texts. Finally, Choral Music from the Renaissance on Saturday, 12 September will see NHO Young Artists celebrate continental choral masterworks from composers such as Gabrieli, Palestrina and Monteverdi.

It was naturally a blow for the festival not to be able to present La traviata and Don Giovanni as had originally been planned, but the new events look very well crafted so that while the normal summer opera format will not be followed, enough elements are in place to ensure its spirit is mirrored. The performances will be outdoors and not in the 2018 RIBA Stirling Prize nominated opera house. However, that theatre, which is installed inside an historic stable block courtyard, has been temporarily filled with art and sculpture so that it can operate as a gallery. Although there will be no opera in which to insert a ninety minute dining interval, each visit will last for two and a half hours so that people will be able to enjoy the forty-five minute performance, explore the gallery and grounds and purchase locally sourced food and drink. Nevill Holt Opera, which is situated near Market Harborough, boasts beautiful gardens, sculpture by Anthony Gormley, Marc Quinn and Conrad Shawcross, and stunning views across the Leicestershire countryside, so people will certainly find that their visit is a full one.

“It was naturally a blow for the festival not to be able to present La traviata and Don Giovanni as had originally been planned…”

Each event will be carried out with strict social distancing and hygiene measures in place. These will follow the most up-to-date guidance and be communicated to all attendees in advance.

NHO’s Managing Director, Annie Lydford, has said “It is exciting for us to be able to present a proper concert series, enabling paid work for our Young Artists and bringing live music to those who are so desperate to hear it. It matters to us that we are producing work and able to funnel our financial support through to the artists and freelancers who are particularly affected by the pandemic. Understandably, many organisations have been focusing on broadcasting well-known and established singers during this period, but we believe it is crucial to be supporting and employing those at the very start of their careers too. We are so lucky to have access to the beautiful gardens at Nevill Holt and our Artistic Director, Nicholas Chalmers, has deliberately chosen programmes that will fit perfectly in those very special surroundings.”

Tickets for each event cost £35 and general booking opens at 09.00 on Monday, 27 July through Nevill Holt Opera’s website.

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