What the Critics Say

Buxton Festival is a world class musical and literary event , but don’t take our word for it, here are some recent reviews from the national media.

Fidelio reverts to its original form at Buxton Festival

Seen and Heard International by Robert J Farr

Beethoven’s opera Leonore was premiered in Vienna’s Kärntnertorteater in Novenber 1805. Looking back on musical history it seems strange to us today that Beethoven, widely recognised as the pre-eminent composer of his time, only managed to write one opera and that after two unsatisfactory trials and much revision. As the son of a singer and… Read more »

Peaks Performance: Buxton rises to the challenge of a welcome Leonore

Sunday Times by Hugh Canning

The Buxton Festival was launched in 1979 with an operatic potboiler, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, but the following year established itself as a haven for opera epicures with two (then) rarities, Berlioz’s Beatrice and Benedict and Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet. Both starred top-flight singers: Ann Murray and Philip Langridge as Shakespeare’s sparring lovers; Thomas Allen as… Read more »

I Capuleti e i Montecchi

The Times by Anna Picard

**** No ball, no balcony, and instead of a vendetta, a civil war. Buxton Festival’s nod to Shakespeare 400 is typically oblique. Bellini’s compact tragedy I Capuleti e i Montecchi was based not on Romeo and Juliet but Luigi Scevola’s dramatisation of the 16th-century source material, Giulietta e Romeo. Set in a room in a… Read more »

An unfamiliar but compelling version of Leonore precedes an assured staging of Bellini’s Romeo and Juliet opera and the challenges of Handel’s great tragedy

The Guardian by George Hall

*** This year’s Buxton festival opens with Beethoven’s only opera, in an unfamiliar edition: the original version of 1805, usually called Leonore (Beethoven’s preferred title) as opposed to the final revision of 1814, known as Fidelio. Conductor Stephen Barlow and director Stephen Medcalf declare themselves partisans of Leonore, which they believe to be more satisfying… Read more »

Games of Thrones: Handel’s Tamerlano at the Buxton Festival

Bachtrack by Dominic Lowe

**** Handel’s Tamerlano was written during what posterity now regards as a golden year for the composer when two of his other most popular and enduring works, Giulio Cesare and Rodelinda were composed. By any standards of the genre, the plot is convoluted: the Tartar leader Tamerlano has defeated the Ottoman Sultan, Bajazet, whose daughter,… Read more »

Visual and aural feast – Handel’s Tamerlano in Buxton

Planet Hugill by Robert Hugill

5 stars Serious psychological drama and seriously good singing The third in a remarkable trio of productions at this year’s Buxton Festival was Handel’s Tamerlano, a co-production between the festival and the English Concert, with Laurence Cummings conducting the English Concert in the pit. Directed by Francis Matthews, designed by Adrian Linford, with lighting by… Read more »

Knives out in Verona: a fine I Capuleti e i Montecchi at Buxton Festival

Bachtrack by Dominic Lowe

**** Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi is one of those operas that constantly threatens to enter the popular repertoire, but never quite manages to establish itself, despite being taken up in recent years by, amongst others, Anna Netrebko and Elīna Garanča. The composer put it together from the score of his earlier unsuccessful work… Read more »

I Capuleti e I Montecchi

Theatre Reviews by Mark Ronan

After Bellini’s unexpected failure with his 1829 opera Zaira, based on Voltaire’s tragedy from a century earlier, the following year saw a new opportunity with an opera for the 1830 Carnival season in Venice. Unfortunately he had but a month and a half to prepare it, so his librettist Felice Romani rewrote an earlier text… Read more »

Classic yet modern – Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi at Buxton

Planet Hugill by Robert Hugill

5 stars The second Buxton Festival opera production this year was Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi, not strictly Shakespearian but an alternative take on the familiar story and very apt for this Shakespeare anniversary year. Harry Fehr’s production opened at Buxton Opera House on Saturday 9 July 2016, designed by Yannis Thavoris with lighting… Read more »

Love stories with a difference in the Peak District

The ArtsDesk by Robert Beale

 ****  The first two of the three in-house opera productions in this year’s Buxton Festival could be bracketed under a slogan of ‘love stories, Jim – but not quite as we know them’. Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi is, of course, Romeo and Juliet … sort of. She comes round in time to sing… Read more »

“Beethoven’s what?” Leonore at Buxton Festival

Bachtrack by Dominic Lowe

This year’s Buxton Festival began with a production of Beethoven’s opera Leonore. Yes, a Leonore opera, not just a Leonore overture. The history of the gestation of Beethoven’s definitive contribution to the history of German opera, Fidelio, is a troubled one and a great many notes were spilled from its genesis to its unsuccessful première… Read more »


Theatre Reviews by Mark Ronan

As an opera composer the 34-year old Beethoven was not a natural and his 1805 Leonore caused him no little trouble. Its poor reception by an audience composed largely of soldiers in Napoleon’s army, who would mostly not have understood the German Singspiel, did not help and a year later he cut it from three… Read more »

Not just Fidelio-lite – the real Leonore at the Buxton Festival

Planet Hugill by Robert Hugill

4 stars The Buxton Festival opened on 8 July 2017 at Buxton Opera House with a real rarity, Beethoven’s Leonore (the original 1805 version of the opera which would become Fidelio in 1814). Directed by Stephen Medcalf with designs by Francis O’Connor and lighting by Simon Corder, the opera featured Kirstin Sharpin as Leonore, David… Read more »

Leonore, ‘Buxton Festival at its best’

Telegraph by Rupert Christiansen

**** In art as in life, first thoughts can be better guides than second ones. Buxton Festival’s production almost persuades me that Beethoven’s re-conception of Leonore as Fidelio a decade after its première incurred more losses in depth than gains in concision. Leonore is certainly baggier than its successor: it contains more musical numbers and… Read more »

Polishing another forgotten gem

A View from Behind the Arras by Roderic Dunnett

Giovanna d’Arco ***** There were at least two 19th century operas on the heroic and tragic subject of Joan of Arc: Tchaikovsky’s The Maid of Orleans appears from time to time; the other is Giovanna d’Arco, one of Verdi’s early operas on which he cut his teeth (his seventh, first staged at La Scala, Milan… Read more »

Bloody Lucia, saintly Joan and sweet Louise

theartsdesk by Richard Bratby

High operatic standards for Donizetti, Verdi and Charpentier in the Peak District Sunlight bounces off Derbyshire stone, buskers strum on the Pavilion Gardens bandstand and there’s improvised Shakespeare on the streets: it’s Festival time again in Buxton. Frank Matcham’s Opera House doesn’t present a particularly festive appearance to the street – he had to squeeze… Read more »

Bravo, Buxton! Less really is … Lammermoor

Mail on Sunday by David Mellor

**** The little spa town of Buxton, set among the rolling uplands of the Peak District, is an enchanting place to visit. The town itself has emerged from decades of drabness. When the restoration of the charming, miniature Georgian crescent, every bit the equal of anything at Bath, is completed, Buxton will be back in… Read more »

Giovanna d’Arco

Manchester Evening News by Robert Beale

**** It could be said that this year’s operas at the Buxton Festival are all about girl power. All three of the in-house productions have a woman’s name as their title, and the visiting Dido And Aeneas from The English Concert was built around one of the greatest tragic female roles. Watching soprano Kate Ladner… Read more »

Lucia di Lammermoor

Manchester Evening News by Robert Beale

**** Buxton Festival has seen some great productions of classical comedy operas in past years, but this time there are not a lot of laughs. Lucia Di Lammermoor is about as tragic as they get, with the heroine knifing her husband on their wedding night and appearing completely bonkers in the famous ‘mad scene’ afterwards…. Read more »

Giovanna d’Arco

The Times by Anna Picard

**** There has been no getting away from Joan of Arc lately. With the publication of Helen Castor’s history and the Orlando Consort’s Voices Appeared tour, in which five singers craft a life soundtrack to Dreyer’s 1928 silent film La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, it seems as though we understand the suffering and ecstasy of… Read more »