Creative teams from thirty-two countries submitted concepts and designs for Puccini’s 1893 opera to a panel of judges including Opera Holland Park’s Director of Opera, James Clutton, and Stefan Vogel, General Manager of Staatsoper Mainz, where the other first prize winning creative team of Gerald Jones and Cécile Trémolières will present their production.

From 214 anonymously submitted treatments by creative teams under the age of 35, ten concepts for Manon Lescaut were selected to be presented in the semi-final in Birmingham, with four directors and designers going through to the final stage of the competition in Zurich on 29 June 2018, hosted by Opera Europa. Annilese Miskimmon, chair of the jury and Artistic Director of Den Norske Opera and Ballet, said: “Opera Holland Park’s decision to offer this wonderful opportunity in partnership with Camerata Nuova attracted young international directors of quality and vision. The standard of the finalists was extremely impressive and all four teams will be worth watching as they establish their careers.”

Commenting on the competition and selection process, Opera Holland Park’s James Clutton said: “Opera Holland Park has a long tradition of identifying and nurturing emerging talent, even before the launch of our Young Artists Scheme in 2012. We’ve enjoyed terrific success in the past working with directors and designers of a similar age to Karolina and George. With Opera Europa and Camerata Nuova, we have had a chance to widen the net of potential talent, alongside colleagues in the opera business from across Europe. It has been a great pleasure to see the variety and vibrancy of the treatments that were submitted, and I am looking forward to developing Karolina and George’s ideas with the OHP production team over the next ten months.”

George Leigh studied Scenic Art and Lighting Design at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and assisted the director-designer Charles Edwards on the 2017 ‘Little Greats’ season for Opera North. Karolina Sofulak made her Opera North debut in the same season with a production of Cavalleria rusticana that was praised by The Daily Telegraph and The Stage for its potency and intensity. A graduate of the University of Warsaw and the Ludwik Solski State Drama School, Cracow, Sofulak is based in Britain and has assisted directors including Christopher Alden, Phyllida Lloyd, Mariusz Trelinski and Keith Warner. Manon Lescaut, their debut production for Opera Holland Park, will open 4 June 2019, with the British lyric soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn as Manon.