My Leicestershire: Rosenna East, General Manager, Nevill Holt Opera

When did you first come to Leicestershire? I first came to Leicestershire one dark cold winter day in November 2014. That was the day I first set eyes on the Nevill Holt estate – where our summer opera festival takes place. Standing on the top of that hill, where our theatre is located, I had to summon up all my imagination to picture it bathed in lovely summer sun.

Where do you call home in the county? I spend a lot of time in the Kitchen office at Nevill Holt!

What is it about Leicestershire that makes you stay here? There are pockets of countryside in Leicestershire that feel ancient and untouched to me – the villages are exquisite. It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced anywhere else in the UK. At Nevill Holt Opera we also have an opportunity to do something no one else is doing in this part of the UK. We’re creating a summer opera festival of the highest professional standards – whether that’s the gardens, the gourmet food, the sculptures, or the opera productions themselves. And of course this year our unique new theatre opens! It’s a very exciting project to be part of. We have been in construction for 2 years, building a bespoke gem of a theatre into the historic stable block courtyard. Our architects are Stirling Prize winning firm Witherford Watson Mann, who specialise in historic projects, and we have a top acoustic team from Sound Space Vision. We will reveal the new theatre to our festival audiences on 14th June.

What do you love most about Leicestershire? Well, I would say, Nevill Holt Opera! But both the countryside and the local food products are a favourite. At NHO we are all regular visitors to the Ashley Farm Shop.

What frustrates you about it? I think some people don’t realise that what we are doing at NHO isn’t just a local show. The Director of 6 out of our 8 productions to date has just taken up his new post as Director of Opera at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, which we consider a high benchmark! I think sometimes people don’t realise what they have on their doorstep here.

What makes Leicestershire a great place in which to create? There are lots of people who are hugely supportive of what we are striving to achieve here – not least our festival host David Ross. David has been a fantastic enabler of our ambitions. Nicholas Chalmers (our Artistic Director) and I are very inspired by his commitment to NHO. I also love our growing group of members at Nevill Holt Opera. They are so enthusiastic and I enjoy the direct personal relationship I am building with our supporters and audience.

What’s your ambition for the county and for the Opera? I want Nevill Holt Opera to be the best! It’s as simple as that. I want that to be recognised in the county, and the UK. We have a unique new theatre, setting and offer to our audiences. And I would like people in the county to be proud that we’re here in Leicestershire. Our Education programme is also central to our purpose. We offer a professional platform to the most talented emerging young opera stars. I also want us to be directly engaged in our local community, and the schools around us. We were very proud to stage a large-scale schools opera in July 2017, where over 1000 children participated and over 100 performed in the final show. We were delighted to win a Leicestershire Tourism Award for Best Event for it. The wider impact and legacy of our work is key.

What’s your favourite place to eat in the county? I love the breakfasts at the Medbourne Arms. And our Leicestershire food company Stones Events do the best canapés I’ve ever tasted – they have to be tasted to be believed! Occasionally I do sneak into Rutland for some wonderful meals at Hambleton Hall or the Marquess of Exeter – Nevill Holt marks the point in Leicestershire where 3 counties meet.

What’s your favourite bar? Our pop-up champagne bar overlooking the Welland Valley. You can’t beat it.

What’s your favourite walk? There are some stunning walks around the tiny village of Wardley.

What’s your favourite thing to do in the county? That’s easy – a day out at Nevill Holt Opera!      

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