The most congenial Arts Festival in the British Isles? You don’t have to go to Wexford for offbeat opera or to Edinburgh for variety.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Buxton, a couple of hours drive from Gloucestershire, and this year’s programme from 11 to 27 July looks as appetising as a freshly-baked Bakewell tart.
As always, comparatively rare operas form the core of the programme, with Dvorak’s The Jacobin, Gluck’s Orfeo and Otello ¬– not the more familiar Verdi but Rossini’s version from 70 years earlier.
For me, however, the highlight will be Gloria – a pigtale, by H.K. Gruber, composer of the riotous Frankenstein, and much influenced by Weill’s Threepenny Opera recently reviewed in The arts diary.
Gloria, to be heard previously at Covent Garden, is the story of a pig princess wooed by a prince who turns out to be a butcher, but whose bacon is saved by a boar. How can they claim opera plots are silly?
Following the splendid exhibition showing the reconstructed head of Richard III at Gloucester Museum and Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe, Philippa Langley and Michael Jones will be talking at Buxton about the search to find the king’s body under the now famous Leicester car park.
Other festival speakers include Cotswold resident Kate Adie, Margaret Drabble, Antonia Fraser on Mary Queen of Scots, Jonathan Aitken on Mrs Thatcher, and Jeffrey Archer on … well probably himself.
Big orchestral concerts apart, there’s a good range of music too, including The Swingle Singers, accordionist Djordje Gajic, 4 Girls 4 Harps and the Endellion Quartet. This year’s festival also includes free weekend events including storytelling in the Magical Yurt.
And appropriately enough, in the beautiful Peak District setting, Worcestershire’s Brett Westwood and Stephen Moss of Radio 4’s Tweet of the Day will be tweeting their way through bird life of the year.
Full details appear on the Buxton Festival website.