Buxton Festival starts on Friday

19%20July%20LBallThis year’s Buxton Festival has a great line-up of opera, music, literature, family and free events as well as some unexpected surprises.

The 17-day festival, which runs from July 5 to 21, is the 35th event and artistic director Stephen Barlow described the programme as a ‘kaleidoscope of culture’ of which he was very proud.

He is particularly thrilled that the UK premiere of Sciarrino’s modern classic The Killing Flower is being staged by Music Theatre Wales.

“It may well be the quietest opera you’ve encountered with its haunting echoes of Monteverdi,” he said.

The festival’s opera productions are a Double Bill of two sparkling French romances, Saint-Saens’ La Princesse Jaune and Gounod’s La Colombe and La finta giardiniera, the story of a couple reunited a year after apparent death, written by Mozart at the age of 17.

As well as Music Theatre Wales there are also a number of other visiting opera performances – the acclaimed Grange Park Opera with Fortunio and La Serenissima with Vivaldi’s Ottone in villa.

There is also a rare opportunity to experience all three of Benjamin Britten’s haunting Church Parables in the unique setting of St John’s Church and an Opera Gala concert starring celebrated singers Claire Rutter and Stephen Gadd.

In the music series, there’s a packed programme of concerts by renowned ensembles and soloists including piano duo Worbey and Farrell, the Prince of Wales’ official harpist Claire Jones, singers James Gilchrist, Kate Ladner and Anne Sophie Duprels, pianists Pascal and Ami Rogé, and celebrated ensembles The Sacconi Quartet and The Fibonacci Sequence.

There’s also a number of concerts featuring up-and-coming talent from the festival’s Young Artists Programme, and late-night jazz from actor John Standing, The Alex Yellowlees Hot Club Jazz Quartet and Ronnie Scott’s house band The James Pearson Trio, featuring violinist and vocalist Lizzie Ball.

This year’s festival also includes family and free weekend events. There’s The Titian Experience, a touring celebration of the National Gallery’s acquisition of the masterpiece Diana and Callisto; The Whale, a tiny walk-in, whale-shaped theatre where audiences of one or two can take in a short performance, and, in the Pavilion Gardens, the Magical Storytelling Yurt.

Also, for anyone looking for a free taster of the festival’s operas, there’s A Song at Six, each day in the Pavilion Gardens’ bandstand.

Randall Shannon the festival’s executive director said: “This is an exciting time for the renowned opera, music and literary event. We look forward to welcoming audiences to the festival whether this is their 33th or first festival.”

As well as its reputation for top opera and music, Buxton Festival is making a name for itself as one of the country’s leading literary festivals.

Talks from big-name authors, celebrated public figures and writers with fascinating stories to tell are presented in the Opera House and Pavilion Arts Centre throughout the festival.

Among the well-known names appearing will be presenter and raconteur Sandi Toksvig with her novel Valentine Grey, and broadcasting luminary Melvyn Bragg with his latest, Grace and Mary.

There’s popular Countryfile presenter Julia Bradbury, BBC political correspondent Nick Robinson on the relationship between the press and Downing Street and Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen looks at the last few tumultuous years in the region.

Ann Widdecombe will present her autobiography, Strictly Ann. Novelists AN Wilson, Jane Gardam, Deborah Moggach and Frances Osborne will introduce their latest books.

The Duke of Devonshire will be talking about centuries of collecting at Chatsworth, while Roy Hattersley looks back over the history of the Devonshires.

Designer Thomas Heatherwick will talk with Joanna Lumley about his extraordinary career, including the creation of the amazing Olympic Cauldron.

Talks with a theme linked to with the festival’s operatic roots are given by Roger Parker, who discusses the history of the art form; Peter Conrad and Stephen Barlow who talk about opera’s themes and meanings; Barry Millington who looks at the life of Richard Wagner and Paul Kildea who celebrates the centenary of Benjamin Britten.

There’s a number of amazing life-stories – Hannah Rothschild talks about her scandalous great aunt Nica Rothschild; Artemis Cooper looks at writer and adventurer Patrick Leigh Fermor; Victoria Glendinning examines the life of founder of Singapore, Thomas Stamford Raffles; Lucy Hughes-Hallett looks at Italian firebrand Gabriele d’Annunzio and Jane Ridley takes a fresh look at the life of Edward VII.

In fascinating historical stories, William Dalrymple looks at the British Empire’s disastrous Afghan campaign; Paddy Ashdown (himself a former member of the SAS) examines the daring World War II raid by the Cockleshell Heroes; Catherine Bailey investigates the mysterious death of the 9th Duke of Rutland; Clive Aslet tells the stories from one village’s war memorial, Derek Niemann talks about the three prisoners of war whose love of ornithology helped them through their incarceration and Simon Jenkins gives A Short History of England.

The festival also features a poetry recital and two literary events aimed at children.

The festival brochure is available to download from the website http://www.buxtonfestival.co.uk or call the festival office on 01298 70395 for a hard copy and further festival details.

Running alongside the festival is the popular Buxton Festival Fringe visit http://www.buxtonfringe.org.uk