Focus on Shakespeare at festival

A busy event at a past Buxton Festival
A busy event at a past Buxton Festival

The Derbyshire spa town of Buxton is already gearing up for its big summer festival of opera, music and books.

This year’s festival will take place from July 8 to 24 and many of the events will celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

Much-anticipated opera performances include Beethoven’s Leonore, Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi and Handel’s Tamerlano.

The opera programme also includes a concert performance of Vivaldi’s La Senna Festeggiante and a UK Premiere by Music Theatre Wales of The Golden Dragon by Peter Eotvos.

Artistic director Stephen Barlow said: “Handel, Beethoven and Bellini make a profoundly impressive trio of giants when grouped together in a presentation of operas that are cherry-picked from their work.”

The 16-day festival also features 38 concerts and recitals from world-renowned musicians and singers including pianists Stephen Kovacevic and Angela Hewitt, The Chilingirian Quartet, baritone Roderick Williams, tenor James Gilchrist, The Schubert Ensemble and The English Concert.

Late-night concerts in the Pavilion Café showcase the best in jazz, folk and world music.

This year’s book festival includes 43 talks covering topics from the railways to butterflies, trees to bible translations, the Loch Ness Monster to Charlotte Bronte.

Speakers include inspirational cook Sarah Raven, alternative comedy pioneer Alexei Sayle, broadcasters Melvyn Bragg and Joan Bakewell, politician Vince Cable and former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis.

Events in all strands of the festival commemorate Shakespeare, including a puppet version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for all the family.

I Capuleti e i Montecchi is Bellini’s version of the Romeo and Juliet story, focusing on the warring families at the centre of the story.

In the music series, acclaimed tenor Nicky Spence and pianist Simon Lepper will present As You Like It, a programme of Shakespearean songs. There’s also a new dramatised concert, Hathaway, telling the story of Shakespeare’s wife, starring soprano Elin Pritchard, who wowed festival audiences last year in Lucia di Lammermoor.

Book events feature a talk from world-renowned language expert David Crystal on how Shakespeare’s plays were originally pronounced while Andrew Dickson talks about how Shakespeare’s plays have been enjoyed around the world, from Bollywood to the Wild West.

For further details and bookings, visit buxtonfestival.co.uk or call 01298 70395.

The Buxton Festival Fringe features the Shakespeare Jukebox, performing open-air Shakespeare outside Buxton Opera House regularly during the event.

The Fringe runs from July 6 to 24 with lots of comedy events, plus theatre, music and visual arts.

Details are published on the Fringe website www.buxtonfringe.org.uk and a printed programme will be available from early June.