Nevill Holt Opera wins prestigious RIBA East Midlands Building of the Year Award 2019

Photo by Hélène Binet

The striking new 400-seat theatre at Nevill Holt Opera, hidden inside a historic courtyard, has won three RIBA East Midlands Awards 2019 including the RIBA award for Conservation, and the coveted Building of the Year award.

Designed by Stirling Prize winning architects Witherford Watson Mann and theatre designers Sound Space Vision, built by Messenger BCR, and supported by the David Ross Foundation, this incredible award underpins Nevill Holt Opera’s commitment to delivering world class opera in a truly exceptional setting.

The astonishing space, housed within a 17th century stable block on the Grade I listed Leicestershire estate, has replaced ten years of temporary tent structures. The character of the historic stable block remains a significant part of the theatre’s aesthetic. The building’s restrained but rich material palette is brought to life by a flood of daylight from the large central roof-light, acting as a reminder of the historic function of the courtyard.


Colin McColl, Chair of the RIBA jury said:

“This is a project that looks effortless, yet we all know that this belies the truth. The modesty, craftsmanship, care and attention that have been applied here are exceptional.”


With optimal technical stage equipment and an increased pit capacity, the natural materials, skilfully selected for their acoustic warmth and visual fit, support Nevill Holt Opera’s acclaimed high artistic and musical standards, while retaining the intimacy that the company is known for.

The Jury’s citation described how the new roof and upper walls of the auditorium are all from alightly sand blasted larch, picking up the more honey coloured hues of the local Clipsham stone. The rhythm of the cladding pattern is informed by the rhythm of the existing stable joists behind – part of a larger acoustic tuning exercise to support young opera singers’ voices.

WIth a horseshoe-shaped hall, (a shape long favoured by opera companies to enhance the overall intensity of the audience experience), the new theatre at Nevill Holt Opera provides considerable acoustical reflections, resonance, clarity and immersion that come together to breathe life into their productions.

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