In recognition of the philanthropy which has enabled the £18 million transformation of its buildings into a creative powerhouse in the North, Opera North has named the spaces in its new Leeds home after the donors who have played a key role in the redevelopment.
The new Howard Opera Centre is an artistic home for everyone; a place to develop talent, support world-class artists, and inspire audiences. When the major Music Works fundraising campaign was launched in 2018 so that the building works could begin, it immediately benefitted from a significant philanthropic gift of £11.25 million from Dr Keith Howard OBE, late President of Opera North and founder of Emerald Publishing. The building is named the Howard Opera Centre as a lasting acknowledgement of both his generosity and his passionate belief in the value of opera and music to enrich people’s lives.
Within the Howard Opera Centre, the Bramall Education Studio and the Holbeck Teaching Room provide flexible spaces for an extensive range of learning and participation activities. The Bramall family, both individually and through The Liz & Terry Bramall Foundation, have long supported Opera North’s work, on both the main stage and particularly in the education sphere, making a significant donation of £1 million to the Music Works campaign. The Bramall family’s commitment to the arts, and that shown by fellow Diamond Patrons, Gordon and Francesca Horsfield of The Holbeck Charitable Trust, means that the Education team now have a purpose-built facility to enable people of all ages to engage with the arts.
Terry Bramall, Trustee of The Liz & Terry Bramall Foundation, and Opera North Diamond Patron, said:
“We share Opera North’s firm belief in the importance of giving everyone the chance to experience the joy which interaction with music and performance can bring. It is our great hope that the many activities planned for the Bramall Education Studio will inspire young participants in particular, sparking a lifelong love of the arts at an early stage in their lives.”
Richard Mantle and Key Donors in the Gabbertas Gallery overlooking the Chorus of Opera North rehearsing in the Mantle Music Studio © Tom Arber
For the performing artists, new music rooms have been created in the Centre for one-to-one tuition and smaller practice sessions. These will be known as the Ziff, Pettman and Torridon Music Rooms in acknowledgement of the longstanding support of the Ziff family through The Marjorie and Arnold Ziff Charitable Foundation; of Maureen and the late Barrie Pettman, who also fund the annual DARE Fellowship for arts students from the UK and New Zealand; and of Frances Cole and Judith Hooper who recently helped establish Opera North’s Step Into Singing initiative, a series of online singing workshops designed for those living with persistent pain.
Larger scale rehearsals with the Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North will take place in the specially-designed studio on the Centre’s fourth floor. This features a gallery space which has been named the Gabbertas Gallery to reflect the dedication to opera and performance shown over many years by Richard and Gini Gabbertas. The Gabbertas Gallery overlooks the Mantle Music Studio, so called in recognition of the commitment and service given to Opera North by Richard Mantle. As Opera North’s General Director for over 25 years, his leadership has been fundamental in guiding the project from its inception to completion, as well as ensuring the stability of the Company throughout the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Paul Lee, Chairman of the Opera North Board of Trustees, said:
“To have managed to create this amazing facility for the arts on New Briggate in Opera North’s home town of Leeds is a magnificent achievement, particularly over the past 18 months. None of it could have happened without the support of so many people whose remarkable generosity has been so gratefully received, and we are also indebted to Richard Mantle for the inspirational leadership he has provided throughout.”
The new atrium taking shape in the Howard Opera Centre © Tom Arber
Other trusts and foundations that have generously donated to the project include the Garfield Weston Foundation, Fidelity UK Foundation, Wolfson Foundation, Foyle Foundation, Alerce Trust, Kirby Laing Foundation, Backstage Trust, 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust, Hobson Charity, Whitaker Charitable Trust, Arnold Burton Trust, Sir George Martin Trust, and J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust. Leeds City Council contributed £750,000, together with the lease of the vacant shops on New Briggate, and Arts Council England awarded the project a grant of £499,999 in 2018 through the Small Capital Grants scheme, bolstered in 2020 by a Capital Kickstart award of £500,000 by Arts Council England and DCMS as part of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund in response to the economic impact of the COVID pandemic on the arts industries.
Members of the public provided further vital support by donating through the Play Your Part campaign and by purchasing musical notes through Making Music, an installation symbolising a musical score. This will sit in the atrium as a visual reminder that making music lies at the heart of the building.
Paul Lee, Chairman of the Board of Trustees; Renée Hunt, Board of Trustees; Garry Walker, Music Director, Opera North (back) with major donors Terry Bramall, Maureen Pettman, Melissa Fojt, Liz Bramall, Francesca Horsfield, Frances Cole and Judith Hooper (middle) and Richard Mantle, General Director, Opera North (front) © Tom Arber
Richard Mantle, General Director of Opera North, said:
“The Howard Opera Centre would never have got off the ground without the extraordinary generosity of Keith Howard and everyone else who has contributed to it. We are forever indebted to them for their investment in the arts and their unstinting belief in the power of music and performance to transform lives. We are delighted that so many of the major donors have been able to join us today, and only regret that Keith is no longer with us to celebrate what has been achieved.
“By naming these spaces within the building after those who have given so much to the project, we hope to provide a lasting testament to their vision and philanthropy. Together, they have made a valuable contribution to the cultural and civic fabric of Leeds and the wider region, creating a home for thrilling music and artistic excellence where people of all ages can connect with each other and with Opera North now and in the future.”