One of the UK’s leading conductors, Nicholas Chalmers founded Leicestershire-based opera festival Nevill Holt Opera at the Leicestershire-based Nevill Holt estate in 2012. During this time he established an award-winning education and associate artists programme. He has not revealed the reasons behind his decision to step down after 10 years as the company’s artistic director, or what he plans to do next.
In a statement released by the festival, Chalmers commented: “It has been an immense pleasure and privilege to be artistic director of Nevill Holt Opera over the last 10 years. However, I have now made the decision to step down from the role. I feel the time is right for me to move on to new challenges.”
The organisation’s year-round education programme works with schools across the region to introduce young people in the East Midlands to opera. “Since establishing the festival in 2012, NHO has engaged with more than 10,000 children, employed hundreds of opera practitioners and built a new home for opera in the East Midlands,” Chalmers continued.
The rapid success of the festival under Chalmers’s leadership led to a new opera house being built on the estate. It opened in 2018 with a production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro, 1786). The building won plaudits for its acoustic design and reached the final of the RIBA Stirling prize in 2019.
“With excellence in music being at the core of all that we do, the partnerships with Royal Northern Sinfonia, Manchester Camerata and Britten Sinfonia have been so fruitful. There has been a children’s chorus in most of our operas and the greatest joy for me is now seeing some of the 11-year-old children from 10 years ago return to our stage as adult professionals.”
With Nevill Holt Opera, Chalmers has conducted The Magic Flute (1791), Le Nozze di Figaro and Cosí fan tutte (Women are like That, 1790) by Mozart, La bohème (The Bohemians, 1896) and Tosca (1900) by Puccini, The Turn of the Screw (1954), Noye’s Fludde (1958) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1960) by Britten, Bizet’s Carmen (1875), and Rigoletto (1851), The Elixir of Love (1832) and La traviata (The Fallen Woman, 1853) by Verdi.
Chalmers added: “I take with me so many fond memories: the outdoor Noye’s Fludde in 2017 with hundreds of children on stage and in the orchestra with members of the CBSO; the Italian Songbook project with secondary schools across the East Midlands – thousands of miles on the road, thousands of hours of teaching and bringing the wonder of these songs to life alongside James Newby, Anna Harvey and Philippa Boyle; in 2018, conducting the opening bars of Le nozze di Figaro as construction workers put the finishing touches on our new theatre.
“NHO was established with the principle that opera, education and community would be given equal weight in our work. It is therefore fitting that my last performance with NHO was conducting our version of one of the great operas, The Magic Flute, on 30 March in Rugby at the conclusion of our education tour in which 1,200 primary school children took part – in Grimsby, in Hull, in Bridlington Spa, in Northampton, in Corby and in Rugby.”
Chalmers’s statement came at the same time as an announcement from Nevill Holt Opera that due to financial difficulties, its scheduled performances of a Pagliacci (Clowns, Leoncavallo, 1892) and Gianni Schicchi (Puccini, 1918) double-bill would have to be cancelled. The shows were part of the 2023 festival line-up.
“I am aware that Nevill Holt Opera has today released a statement about the content of the 2023 season,” Chalmers said. “I have played no part in these decisions and they are a separate matter to that of my resignation.
“Thank you to all our supporters. I wish the company, its devoted staff and all who have followed us every success. I hope that I can collaborate with the artists, orchestras and creatives in another capacity in the near future. I stand with them in solidarity in these challenging times.”
Conductor Nicholas Chalmers has announced that he is to step down as artistic director of Nevill Holt Opera after 10 years in the role.