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Nevill Holt Opera between Uppingham and Market Harborough to reopen for live music in its gardens from July 4

Nevill Holt Opera, between Uppingham and Market Harborough, will reopen its gardens on Saturday, July 4, offering guests the opportunity to enjoy socially distanced performances of live music as well as the iconic art and sculpture that is on display.

For £15 per person (£10 per child) guests can enjoy an hour and a half exploring the famous gardens, while being serenaded by singing from four of Nevill Holt Opera’s young artists. For most guests, this will be the first time that live music will be available for them to experience since lockdown began.

Each summer, Nevill Holt Opera mounts a programme of world-class opera in its RIBA award-winning theatre on the Nevill Holt estate. As well as opening to the public on July 4, Nevill Holt Opera has marked what would have been the start of its season with a special prize draw and by releasing music recorded in its theatre in June for free on its social media channels.

Nevill Holt Opera
Nevill Holt Opera

Money raised from opening up the gardens for these live performances will support Nevill Holt Opera’s community and education programmes across the Midlands, which since 2013 have seen the company work with thousands of local children.

Since March 16, the UK’s world-leading cultural and creative industries have gone into hibernation. With theatres unable to open and museums and galleries closed, music-lovers have had to rely on past recordings or digital streams in order to get their musical fix. Now, Nevill Holt Opera has found a way to perform safely outside, with singers and guests keeping a strict 2m from one another at all times.

The Nevill Holt estate, upon which has been built the theatre, dates back to the 12th or 13th century and has a colourful past. Over the years it has been owned by a number of Leicestershire families until it was sold at auction to Edward Cunard in 1876. When he died suddenly a year later, it passed to Sir Bache Cunard, his brother. Sir Bache married a wealthy American heiress 20 years his junior and in 1896 their daughter Nancy Cunard was born at the house. Nancy would go on to become a queen of the jazz age, muse, patron and mistress to the most exciting writers and artists of the era, style icon and later fierce campaigner against prejudice and social injustice.

Today, Nevill Holt is known for both its opera festival and its outstanding collection of modern British art and sculpture. Throughout the grounds can be seen works by Antony Gormley, Allen Jones, Marc Quinn, Nic Fiddian Green, Conrad Shawcross, Sean Henry and others. In 2019, Nevill Holt Opera became the first ever opera house to be nominated for RIBA’s Stirling Prize, ultimately winning the People’s Vote.

The gardens, which guests will be able to enjoy from July 4, were designed by Chelsea gold medal winner Rupert Golby and are managed by head gardener Andy Bretherick. The Nevill Holt Opera gardens were finalists in the Leicestershire Tourism Awards 2017 for ‘Best Gardens’.

Annie Lydford, managing director of Nevill Holt Opera, said: “Nevill Holt Opera is a performing arts organisation, and that means that when we are unable to safely perform to our audiences we lose our very purpose. We were absolutely delighted to get the go-ahead from our local council to perform outside this summer.

Nevill Holt Opera
Nevill Holt Opera

"The financial challenges of postponing our festival this summer are extremely significant, and the impact of the last few months has also been felt particularly heavily by the artists and freelancers across the sector.

"We are so pleased that access to the beautiful gardens at Nevill Holt mean that we can follow the lead of organisations like the National Trust and others to open them up, while offering something very special to audiences by presenting live music for them to enjoy safely.

"Music has offered people a balm for so many over the last four months, and we have heard over and over again from our audiences how much they are missing hearing it in person. As soon as the government regulations changed so that we knew we could open the gardens safely and invite four fantastic opera singers to perform, we knew that we had to act quickly and make it a reality. In this time of great uncertainty, we hope it provides a joy to many to be welcoming live performance back to Leicestershire.”

Speaking about the drive to raise money for Nevill Holt Opera’s community and education projects, artistic director Nicholas Chalmers said: “Our work with children and young people across the Midlands and artists breaking into the opera industry is at the heart of everything we do at Nevill Holt Opera.

"Since 2013, we have welcomed thousands of young people to enjoy performances at Nevill Holt, featured brilliant local children onstage in our theatre, and visited schools across the Midlands to deliver workshops and individual singing lessons.

"We are so pleased that we were able to carry out this year’s Spring Education Tour in January, February and March this year - working with nine DRET Academy schools across the Midlands - but are deeply concerned about how we will be able to afford to continue this work in 2021 and beyond.

"We are delighted to be able to support our Young Artists by offering paid work for these performances, and to be able to provide our audiences with the live musical performance that they have missed so much.”

The safety of everyone on-site at Nevill Holt is of paramount importance, and all health and safety restrictions and protocols will be strictly and carefully followed. In order to ensure that social distancing measures are maintained at all times, tickets are strictly limited. Guests are asked to choose a time slot and to only stay for one and a half hours. In addition, there will be hand sanitiser available throughout the grounds and members of staff to help manage any pinch points and ensure guests maintain social distancing.

Tickets are available to purchase from Nevill Holt Opera’s website, www.nevillholtopera.co.uk. If restrictions or official advice changes and the event is no longer safely able to go ahead, all ticket buyers will receive a full refund.

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