Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Meet the Sponsors: Neuhaus

When I contacted Neuhaus a few months ago to see if they would be interested in sponsoring our fundraising gala, they were very enthusiastic.  It didn't take them long to promise us delicious chocolates for our event.

I spoke to Dimitri Van Meerbeeck, Neuhaus' Project & Flagship Manager, who describes the history of the company as follows:

"It all begins in 1857, when Jean Neuhaus sets up business at the prestigious Galerie de la Reine in Brussels.  Later on, his ingenious grandson Jean Neuhaus Junior created the first bite-sized filled chocolate, which he called 'praline'.  It was an instant success!"

Suzanne Neuhaus
Neuhaus actually has a rich history in the opera world, starting with Jean Neuhaus Jr. his daughter, Suzanne Neuhaus-de-Gavre.  She was a famous opera singer who is most remembered for her resounding success in the 1942 production of Manon Lescaut at La Monnaie Opera House in Brussels.  She actually inspired two chocolate collections still for sale at Neuhaus today: the Manon and the Suzanne.

To find out more about this rich opera history, we had a long-distance email interview with Neuhaus CEO Jos Linkens.

Opera Idols:  How long has the company been involved with the opera world?

Jos Linkens: Some years ago we developed collaborations with opera and classical music festivals in Belgium, such as Festival Vlaanderen and La Monnaie in Brussels.  Since a few years we are also developing this in other countries such as the English National Opera and now with MONC/ER.

OI:  What drives you to support an organization like MONC/ER?
JL:  The quality of the Metropolitan Opera drives us to support the organization.  We aim to support projects in which we believe, but it should be projects that fit with our brand identity.

OI:  How big of a role does philanthropy play in the company?
JL:  Neuhaus has recently become active in the field of 'Doing Business Sustainably'.  This implies that we take our corporate social responsibility and involvement seriously, and try to give something back to society.

Through our 'Doing Business Sustainably' program, Neuhaus is contributing to better training and quality of life for cocoa farmers.  In practice, this means that we:

  • are supporting a school for children in Bodjonou (Côte d'Ivoire) by funding buildings, teacher training and school materials;
  • providing funds for training local cocoa farmers in Bodjonou on how to produce more and better cocoa;
  • contributing towards the training of cocoa cooperatives about sustainable agricultural practices that respect the environment.
OI:  What do you hope a competition like this will do for the classical music world?  
JL:  A boost for the career of the talented singers who participate in this competition.

OI:  What is your favorite opera and who is your favorite singer?
JL:  Norma with Maria Callas and L'Elisir d'Amore with Pavarotti, who I heard in the Metropolitan Opera in the nineties.

Le Caprice in Dark Chocolate
Today, Neuhaus is the Belgian leader in luxury chocolate and a Royal Warrant Holder.  The company takes great care and pride in offering only the highest quality and craftsmanship.  Neuhaus wants to offer an identifying and impacting experience to its clients.  Discover what Neuhaus stands for: over 150 years of know-how, creativity, elegance and above all: a true passion for chocolate!

Visit Neuhaus in New York: Grand Central Terminal, 569 Lexington Avenue and New Jersey.  Don't miss the grand opening of the new flagship store at 500 Madison Avenue in March 2012!  If you mention the Metropolitan Opera in either one of the boutiques, Neuhaus will offer you a delicious gift!