Opera Holland Park’s history began in 1605, when Sir Walter Cope built a Jacobean style house on a large piece of green land that later became known as Holland Park.
World War II – 1990s
Holland House sustained severe damage during an incendiary bombing raid in 1940.
In 1952, London County Council bought the property from the 6th Earl of Ilchester. The ruins and grounds became a community resource, managed first by the LCC, then the Greater London Council. In 1986, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea assumed control of Holland Park, purchasing a canopy to put over the space in which visiting theatre, opera and dance companies performed each summer.
Opera Holland Park was founded in 1996 by General Director Michael Volpe from within the local council’s Libraries and Arts services. Our inaugural production was Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera. In 1997 we produced two operas: Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Mascagni’s Iris, the first in a strand of Italian rarities that has become a hallmark of the company’s work. To this day our seasons balance fresh and insightful productions of established masterpieces by Mozart, Donizetti, Bizet, Verdi, Tchaikovsky or Puccini with rarities by Catalani, Cilea, Giordano, Mascagni, Montemezzi, Wolf-Ferrari and Zandonai.
2000s – Present
In 2000, Director of Opera James Clutton joined OHP. From 2001 onwards, under the direction of Volpe and Clutton, the company’s work expanded, delivering up to 48 performances in a single season, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the pit. Since 2003, the City of London Sinfonia has been our resident orchestra, playing repertoire from the eighteenth to the twentieth century.
In 2007, a new 1600 sqm high tensile fabric canopy, designed by Architen Landrell, and a bespoke 1,000 seat auditorium offered improved comfort, acoustics and technical facilities. For the 2018 season, a £2m restoration and landscaping of the south terrace of Holland House will be completed by RBKC, improving the aesthetic of the theatre site and access for the general public.
In 2010, after a succession of critically acclaimed seasons, Opera Holland Park was named Best Opera Company in the UK by the Sunday Times. Since 2011, OHP has been generously sponsored by Investec Wealth and Investment. In the following year, our Young Artists Scheme was launched to develop, nurture and showcase emerging talents. With the ongoing financial and hands-on support of individual donors, trusts, foundations, local volunteers and the Friends of Opera Holland Park, our work has continued to grow. Recent highlights include our first commission of a family opera (Will Todd’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 2013).
In 2015, OHP became an independent charity, led by a board of Trustees chaired by Charles Mackay CBE. In the same year our al fresco production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland transferred to the Royal Opera House.
In 2018, our 2015 production of Jonathan Dove’s Flight will be revived by Scottish Opera, ahead of our co-production of Ariadne auf Naxos with that company. Past and future collaborations with Danish National Opera (La Cenerentola, 2016) and New York City Opera (Isabeau, 2018) have raised our profile internationally. Meanwhile our commitment to the community in the borough and across London continues in our Inspire outreach and education projects, through performances for those with additional needs, and through the 1,500 free tickets we offer annually to the under-18s and over-60s.