Nevill Holt Opera (NHO) has announced that its annual Summer Opera Festival will go ahead this year; the 2020 event was cancelled due to the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis. The 2021 festival will see several changes to ensure that it complies with any government restrictions.
This year, the festival will be staged in August and take place outside, in the landscaped gardens of Nevill Holt Hall, amid sculptures by the likes of Anthony Gormley, Marc Quinn and Conrad Shawcross. The company is creating a large covered stage that will house a socially distanced orchestra for each performance. A second stage will be constructed in front of this for the singers, ensuring audience members feel close to the action.
The outdoor setting will allow a socially distanced audience of up to 650 people per performance. Three seating zones mean that audiences can choose whether to spread out on picnic blankets on the lawn, watch the opera from a comfortable seat, or beat the weather in a tiered and covered grandstand. The company has also made the event more affordable, with prices starting from £35 and hundreds of free tickets for under-18s.
Annie Lydford, NHO managing director, commented: “We are all invigorated to be presenting our largest and most inclusive festival yet despite the challenges of the last year. We felt strongly, at this time when people crave brilliant live experiences perhaps more than ever, that reducing our capacity and raising our prices simply wasn’t an option.
“With fantastic artists and technicians, two creative, beautiful productions – not to mention the wonderful Nevill Holt grounds and gardens – we want to make sure our audiences have an unforgettable time with us this summer.”
The festival will present the two operas that had been scheduled for the cancelled 2020 season: Verdi’s La traviata (The Fallen Woman, 1853) and Mozart’s Don Giovanni (1787). The orchestra for the former is Manchester Camerata, conducted by NHO Artistic Director Nicholas Chalmers.
The production will showcase a cast of outstanding young British-trained singers, with three former Jette Parker Young Artists reuniting for this tale of tragic love. Soprano Susana Gaspar takes the role of courtesan Violetta Valéry, tenor Luis Gomes performs as Alfredo Germont and baritone Michel de Souza sings Giorgio Germont.
“Nevill Holt Opera 2021 is to be our biggest and most ambitious festival to date,” Chalmers said. “We invite you to come and immerse yourselves in the world of Mozart and Verdi in a beautiful outdoor staging.
“Our exceptional young artists, creative teams and orchestra partners are working hard to bring you visual and musical delights as you take in the fantastic view of the Welland Valley from our home at Nevill Holt. We are responding to the events of the last year by opening up the festival to a larger audience, sharing our high artistic standards and doing everything we can to make your experience entertaining and uplifting. We are all missing the arts and I personally cannot wait to conduct Verdi’s masterpiece, La traviata.”
Don Giovanni is to be performed by Shadwell:Ensemble, a newly formed company founded on the principles of inclusivity, education, player empowerment and a commitment to open-door rehearsals. Shadwell’s Music Director Finnegan Downie Dear will conduct.
Baritone Seán Boylan takes the title role. He is joined by bass-baritone Dingle Yandell as Il Commendatore, soprano Aoife Miskelly as Donna Elvira, bass-baritone Nicholas Crawley as Leporello, tenor Joshua Owen Mills as Don Ottavio and mezzo-soprano Olivia Warburton as Zerlina.
Both productions will be joined by a chorus of NHO Young Artists. Tickets go on sale on 1 April and the festival runs from 4 to 25 August. See NHO’s website for further details.
An artist’s impression of Nevill Holt’s new outdoor stage and seating area, which will host the company’s Summer Opera Festival this year.