Buxton Festival

The Buxton Festival is an annual summer festival of opera, music, and (since 2000) a literary series, held in Buxton, Derbyshire, in England since its beginnings in July 1979. This year the festival runs from 5–21 July 2019.[1]

Origins of the present-day Festival

While the origins of the Festival date back to 1936, when an annual drama festival was held until 1942 in conjunction with the London-based Old Vic Theatre Company under Lilian Baylis, the Festival as it exists today came about because of the inspiration to encourage the restoration of the Buxton Opera House, a classic Frank Matcham building.

Much respected conductor Anthony Hose (then Head of Music at Welsh National Opera) and Malcolm Fraser (then lecturing in opera at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester) saw its potential as a venue for an opera festival. With David Rigby, who provided the business input, they spent three years planning the first Festival while restoration was underway.

The restored Buxton Opera House became the venue for the first Buxton Festival in 1979 with presentations of Lucia di Lammermoor (in its first ever complete performance in Britain), followed by Peter Maxwell Davies' The Two Fiddlers.

Productions and performers

From these first successes, the Festival has made a significant impact on the operatic culture of Britain with new productions of rarely performed operas (such as Britten's Let's Make an Opera (1980); Domenico Cimarosa's Il matrimonio segreto (1981 and 1993); Kodály's Háry János (in its British stage premiere in 1982); Vivaldi's Griselda (1983, but not seen anywhere since its original Venice presentation in 1735); Cherubini's Médée (1984, in its original French dialogue never seen in Britain); and, from 1986, many productions of Handel's operas, as well as many others by Cimarosa (in 1989 it presented three).

Performers of the quality of Thomas Allen, Rosalind Plowright, Jean Rigby, Alan Opie, Nigel Kennedy, Cleo Laine, John Ogdon, Alan Bates, Dame Janet Baker, Victoria de los Ángeles, Dame Margaret Price, Lesley Garrett and Sarah Brightman. The current resident orchestra at the festival (as of 2008) is the Northern Chamber Orchestra.

The festival continues to present less well-known opera from celebrated composers, alongside a programme of classical concerts, late-night jazz and a thriving Literary Series. 2014's operas included Antonín Dvořák's The Jacobin, Christoph Willibald Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice and a concert performance of Gioachino Rossini's Otello. The Festival presented its first Autumn Literary Weekend in 2014.

The festival has been followed by the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival, which normally runs for three weeks in August each year in Buxton but moved to Harrogate for 2014.

Buxton Festival Fringe

The Buxton Festival Fringe is an annual open arts festival running at approximately the same time as the Buxton Festival. This year's Fringe dates are 3–24 July 2019.[2] The festival hosts comedy, theatre, dance, music, street performances, film, performance art, talks and shows for children as well as other impromptu events. The festival celebrated its 39th Fringe in 2018 with 181 entries adding up to over 500 individual performances and making this one of the biggest Buxton Fringes to date and with biggest ever Theatre and Comedy sections.[3] It is one of the largest fully independent Fringes in the United Kingdom, along with Brighton Festival Fringe and Edinburgh Fringe.

Since 2011, Underground Venues [4] has been programming events at the newly refurbished Pavilion Arts Centre and Studio with Ed Reardon, Isy Suttie, Henning Wehn and Terry Christian[5] being among the artists who have featured. A new managed venue, The Market Place, ran for a year in 2014[6] and 2017 saw the arrival of another new managed venue, The Rotunda.[7] The Green Man Gallery in Buxton has also become a significant managed venue for the Fringe.[8]

Buxton Rock Festival of the 1970s

On 26 September 1969 an all-night Blues Festival was held in the Pavilion Gardens, Buxton. Fleetwood Mac {Albaross was performed for the first time} and many other top bands performed. The town was shocked by the smell of wet Caftan coats and petuoli oil and had trouble recovering. During the early 1970s, it was best known as one of the UK's most prominent rock festivals, with most major rock bands of the day appearing, including Mott The Hoople, The Faces, Lindisfarne, Canned Heat, Chuck Berry, Nazareth, Edgar Broughton Band, Groundhogs, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Medicine Head, Brewers Droop, Roy Wood and Wizzard. During July 2007 it was the subject of several features on Jeff Cooper's 'Cooper Collection' show on 106.6 Smooth Radio, whose transmission area includes much of Derbyshire.

See also


  1. "Buxton International Festival". Buxton International Festival. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  2. "Buxton Festival Fringe". Buxton Festival Fringe. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  3. https://www.buxtonfringe.org.uk/press201805b.html
  4. "Welcome to Underground · Underground Venues at the Buxton Fringe". underthefringe.com. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  5. "Event Descriptions 2014". www.buxtonfringe.org.uk. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  6. The Market Place
  7. "Biggest Ever Buxton Fringe!". buxtonfringe.org.uk. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  8. https://www.buxtonfringe.org.uk/press201805n.html
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