Opera Holland Park
Opera Holland Park is a summer opera company which produces an annual season of opera performances staged under a temporary canopy in Holland Park, a public park in a wealthy district of west central London of the same name. The venue is fully covered but is open at the sides.
The canopy was installed in 1988 and was initially used for a variety of music. Concerns about noise levels led to an increasing focus on opera from 1989, with productions staged by a variety of small opera companies. For the 2007 season, the theatre was expanded by the addition of a spectacular new canopy underneath which is new seating and other improved facilities. There are now 1,000 seats.
As part of a drive to improve artistic standards "Opera Holland Park" was established in 1996 to produce all future productions, and in recent years the company has enjoyed a long string of hits with major achievements in productions of more obscure repertoire such as Mascagni's Iris, Cilea's L'arlesiana, and many others. It is now considered one of the most accomplished non-state opera companies in the UK. The resident orchestra is the City of London Sinfonia.
Each season around half a dozen operas are staged. Most of them are well known classics but the company has developed a reputation for producing works from the verismo repertoire and a very adventurous production policy. There are nearly fifty performances in the season. They are sung in the original language and surtitling is used.
The venue and company are famed for a warm informality coupled with serious artistic intent and dedication. Pricing is determinedly accessible and the company even has a "Free Tickets for young people" scheme that offers 1200 free seats to people aged between 9 and 18 years old. All of these tickets are for normal performances, not rehearsals.
Management and organization
The company receives financial backing from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, plus a number of corporate sponsors, including Investec Wealth & Investment, a new title sponsor in 2011.
There is also a vibrant Friends organisation attached to the company who raise significant funds for development and who perform a central educational role as well. There are nearly 2,600 Friends of the company as well as nearly 100 elite donors called "Ambassadors".
While it is owned by the Royal Borough, it is characterised by the two people who run it: Michael Volpe (general manager) and James Clutton (producer).
The company reflects their image and philosophies, although both have backgrounds very far removed from the world of opera. Clutton inculcates a strong team atmosphere backstage and manages to persuade international singers to give their time at lower remuneration than they might ordinarily expect, whilst Volpe drives the business, has a penchant for obscure late Italian opera which Clutton translates brilliantly to the stage, and develops the audience and sponsors along similar dedicated lines. Both will be seen at the theatre on most nights - if not every night - and are always mixing with audience members, open to discussion and the odd glass of champagne. It is the bold, indefatigable spirit (and some say sheer madness) of these two individuals that has made the company such a success with productions even larger house will not approach.
In 2007 the company produced Italo Montemezzi's thrilling rarity L'amore dei tre re to great acclaim. The production was regarded as one of the most exciting in the company's history. In the same season OHP's production of Janáček's Jenůfa was widely regarded as one of the best realisations of the opera ever seen in London.
In March 2008, Opera Holland Park's 2007 season was nominated in the category of Concert Series and Festival in the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards.
The 2009 season included such rarities as Janáček's Káťa Kabanová and Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, while 2010 plans included Pelléas et Mélisande and Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini in addition to four or five standard operas each season. The 2011 season includes productions of three major Italian rarities, Mascagni's L'Amico Fritz, Puccini's La Rondine and Catalani's La Wally.
- OHP named Best Opera Company at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea