Gillian Keith Soprano

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Quenching My Thirst For Buxton

The Buxton Festival is a wonderful habit I seem to have got into. This summer marked my sixth year, and my seventh opera in that beautiful, jewel box of a theatre. Each time I am more charmed by this beautiful town and its surrounding countryside.  The pristine Gardens, breathtaking views seen on rambles through the Peaks, antique car auctions in the Pavillion, art shows in the famous Devonshire Dome, delicious pints of Buxton Brewery’s fine selection of ales, surprising discoveries in the Fringe Festival and reacquaintance with old friends make it a truly unique event in my calendar.

From the transcendentally sublime to the brilliantly ridiculous, my appearances on this season’s menu couldn’t have been more different; H.K. Gruber’s wacky ‘cabaret’ opera Gloria: A Pigtale with Mahogany Opera Group had me twirling about the stage in fishnets and lycra as a pretty pig on the lookout for love.  It’s as difficult a role as I’ve sung there, or anywhere, for that matter, and certainly the most unconventional in my Buxton history.

And in keeping with the Festival’s versatile character, the very next day I had the privilege to close the whole Festival with an exhilarating performance of two solo Bach Cantatas in St John’s Church, accompanied by the indefatigable Northern Chamber Orchestra (they had just finished a performance of a three hour Dvořák opera), and led from the harpsichord by the Festival’s impossibly talented and hardworking director, Stephen Barlow.  Bach has been a staple in my repertoire throughout my career, and to perform these incredible pieces in such a beautiful setting was a true highlight of my season.

The Buxton Festival experience is surely different for each festival-goer, and whether your taste is for theatre, dance, guided walks or literary talks, you can fill just about every hour of the day with all manner of engaging events.  It’s truly staggering how much variety is on offer, and personally, I feel I’ve done well if I’ve taken in half a dozen shows during my ‘free’ time away from the stage.  It is said that the Festival spirit is so infectious, even the rain can’t dampen it.  But for the first time in all my years there, the sun shone brightly every day, and I never had my umbrella up once.  Buxton, you have a place in my heart, and I’m counting the days till I see you again.