The Buxton Festival was established in 1979 (the Fringe followed a year later). It will, therefore, be the 37th Festival this year and Festival 2015 was formally launched, with a good mixture of joy, excitement and a little necessary formality, on the stage of the Buxton Opera House this week.
A good many people gathered to celebrate and heard brief and enthusiastic speeches from the newly-confirmed Chair of the Festival - Felicity Goodey - as well as Artistic Director - Stephen Barlow. The Festival is most fortunate that Felicity Goodey has agreed to succeed Dame Janet Smith as Chair of the Festival. Felicity brings an enormous amount of experience from a career in the BBC as well as considerable public service management experience. She spoke very warmly about the town, the Opera House, those living and working in High Peak who give financial and practical support to the Festival. She even found time to mention the successful Fringe. Buxton Festival Fringe looks forward to working with Felicity and all those involved in the Buxton Festival.
Stephen Barlow is planning his fourth Buxton Festival and gave the impression that he looks forward to many more. He emphasised that the Opera House, the Arts Centre and St John's Church provided the perfect mix of venues for the Festival. Talking about this year's programme he asked us to note that the four opera to be performed this year had strong heroines. Donizetti's "undisputed masterpiece, Lucia de Lammermoor, which cannot be performed too often"; Verdi's interpretation of Joan of Arc, Giovanna D'Arco, composed just ten years later; Purcell's Dido and Aeneas; and, finally, concert performances of Charpentier's Louise.
Stephen went on to add that he felt we were all very fortunate in being able to hear these roles sung by artists who were certain to bring something fresh and special to the operas. Australian Kate Ladner - as Giovanna - returns to Buxton after successes in 2012. Welsh soprano Elin Pritchard sings Lucia, South African Pumeza Matshikiza is Dido and Madeleine Pierard - from New Zealand - is Louise.
This international flavour is underlined by the fact that Elijah Moshinsky has agreed to direct Giovanna D'Arco. This is something of a coup for Buxton and no doubt we owe thanks to Stephen Barlow for persuading such a distinguished artist as Elijah for being part of the 2015 Festival.
Tickets for the Buxton Festival go on general sale on 1st April. To see the full programme, which includes perfomances by The English Concert and literary talks by the likes of Louis de Bernieres, AN Wilson, Antonia Fraser and Helen Macdonald, go to the Festival website. The 2015 Buxton Festival opens on 10 July and closes 17 days later on 26 July.