Nevill Holt is preparing itself for a new, ambitious opera hall to host the performances that currently take place on its grounds every year. Reporter Alex Dawson got his hands on a ticket to find out more.
The location is like a film set, the views are breathtaking, the gardens picture-perfect, and the weather almost laughably gorgeous.
You would happily come here just to stroll around and soak up the atmosphere of the finest country home in Harborough, if that was allowed.
But that’s not what Nevill Holt is all about. For most of the year it’s aprivate house - home of Carphone Warehouse co-founder and multi-millionaire David Ross.
But then there’s the opera; the excellent, national-standard opera that Mr Ross and his team has brought to south Leicestershire.
On Sunday it was Puccini’s tightly-plotted 1900 melodrama Tosca. It was excellent - brilliantly acted, orchestrated and sung - and amazing to see in a Harborough village.
And there’s more, of course - the site’s amazing grade II* listed stable block will be converted into a permanent opera house for the 2018 season.
Opera Magazine editor John Allison told the Mail: “Country house opera is a trend, but a new building project like this is rare in opera - especially, it’s fair to say, outside the southern counties.”
Opera-goers park in a large field opposite Nevill Holt Hall (grade I listed) and stroll across to the grounds in jacket and tie - the dress code on Sunday afternoons, even in baking weather. Most will make sure their tickets (at least £80 each) are safe in jacket pockets.
The opera itself started at 3.30pm on Sunday, but many fans arrived at 1.30pm to enjoy a picnic in the hall grounds - in the open air or - for £150 extra - in a private ‘pavillion’ for 12.
Many wander wide-eyed round the splendid gardens, studying a unique collection of sculpture from the like of Anthony Gormley (who also did ‘Angel of the North’) or Eduardo Paolozzi (the steel sculpture by Euston Station).
The opera itself is in a large marquee; stupifyingly hot on Sunday, although that will all change when the air-conditioned permanent opera house opens next year.
It was thrilling to watch a beautifully staged opera in such an intimate setting, and surtitles on large screens help non-experts keep up.
There’s a ‘long interval’ of an hour in the middle of the show, where visitors can choose one of the many catering options on site - a high tea is £27.50 per head.
Then it’s back to the marquee and Tosca’s devastating climax.
John Allison said: “Nevill Holt does good work and uses young, rising artists; it’s not just a beautiful setting and a picnic.”
Harborough District Council leader Blake Pain - who has a music degree and went to the Royal Academy of Music - said Nevill Holt Opera “helps put our district on the cultural map and helps attract visitors including overnight visitors to the district.”