Nevill Holt Opera Review: A quintessential English event
The Nevill Holt Opera has been growing in popularity since its debut performance a couple of years ago. It now has a well deserved place on our British Summer Social Season Guide and this year the event sold out in record time. This alone indicates that the Nevill Holt Opera is not going to remain a hidden gem for long and members of the audience – which often includes several high profile guests – travel from around the country to attend this stylish soiree.
For 2015 the production was Carmen and apart from it being an extremely vibrant and impressive performance, there was also much more to enjoy about this occasion than simply the opera alone. The event was hosted in the beautiful grounds of Nevill Holt, which is owned by the founder of Carphone Warehouse, David Ross.
On the opening night (and subsequent evenings) guests were encouraged to explore Nevill Holt’s stunning gardens before picnicking in the estate prior to the performance. The dress code was black tie and several parties chose to reserve one of the elegant gazebos that provide a lovely private area for entertaining a group of friends.
The striking artwork that is positioned around the estate, magnificent blooms and panoramic view of the Leicestershire countryside provided a perfect and quintessentially English backdrop for a late afternoon tipple. It helped that the sun was shining brightly but even on a cloudy day this is a setting that would certainly please.
Guests can either bring their own picnic or pre-order food from Stones Events. Although part of the fun of such a day out may be designing your own menu and packing your cooler to share with friends, many of the guests chose to sample the food presented by Stones Events, which is excellent.
This luxury catering company provides a delicious selection of canapés that can be accompanied with champagne as a pre-performance treat. You can then enjoy their three-course meal in the restaurant marquee during the interval, which includes choices such as a vegetarian tart that is drizzled in truffle oil or a more traditional beef dish.
Following champagne and canapés, guests progressed to the Stable Block Theatre, which is a beautiful old building that is located next to the main house. Many chose to pause and admire the far reaching vista outside of the building before being seated. The Nic Fiddian-Green horse head sculpture was much admired and David Ross is an avid art collector.
The theatre offers an intimate setting and all of those who attend are guaranteed a clear view of the stage. While last year’s performance of La Bohème was good, the creative team excelled this year and Clare Presland was superb as Carmen. The staging of Carmen exceeded expectation and the cast, accompanied by an outstanding orchestra, kept the audience entertained from start to finish with spontaneous applause occurring at regular intervals.
The Nevill Holt Opera is dedicated to supporting the local community and also provides a platform for emerging British stars to perform in front of a substantial audience. It has become a key stepping stone to the larger events and previous performers have appeared at the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne.
Young singers, as well as children, are cast in each production and their enthusiasm adds an extra dynamic to the show. While the lead singers in Carmen showcased professional and expressive performances, the children caused the most excitement from the audience with their energetic singing and dancing.
The commitment to young talent is wonderful to see and a special aspect. It is highlighted through the Nevill Holt Opera education programme, which has been created in partnership with music, design and theatre teachers. In 2014 the entire children’s chorus for La Bohème comprised students from an inner city Academy in Northampton.
In line with the commitment to the local community, most of the children involved are from areas near to Nevill Holt and they have a whole host of opportunities made available to them. It is a magical introduction to the world of classical music and it is clear to all in the audience that the children love performing. This is a theme that is set to continue every year.
With dinner taking place during the interval and several guests retiring to the moonlit gardens for a nightcap, it is little wonder that this occasion is fast becoming one of our favourite on the British Summer Social Season Guide. It is sophisticated, traditional and superbly executed from a social perspective, which makes it ideal for serious opera fans and also those who are new to the scene.