Located in the picturesque Peak District town of Buxton, this year’s Buxton International Festival features new productions of Bellini’s La sonnambula (The Sleepwalker, 1831), Handel’s Orlando (1733) and Mozart’s Il re pastore (The Shepherd King, 1775). The full programme comprises more than 120 events from 6-23 July.

La sonnambula tells a tale of jilted love, jealousy and innocence rewarded. Amina is engaged to Elvino, and everyone is looking forward to their wedding. However, when a mysterious stranger, Rodolfo, arrives his admiration for Amina provokes jealousy and misunderstanding. A crisis is reached when Amina is discovered in Rodolfo’s room late at night. She is a sleepwalker, but will Elvino believe her?

This new production by Buxton International Festival features the Northern Chamber Orchestra under the baton of conductor and BIF’s artistic director Adrian Kelly. It is directed by Harry Fehr. Chinese soprano Ziyi Dai sings the role of Amina, with Maltese tenor Nico Darmanin as Elvino. South African bass-baritone Simon Shibambu is Rodolfo.

Performances take place on 8, 12, 19 and 22 July at 7.15pm and on 16 July at 2pm in Buxton Opera House. Tickets cost £25-£85.

Il re pastore is another new production from Buxton International Festival with the Northern Chamber Orchestra. Mozart was just 19 years old when he wrote the opera in 1775 at the command of the Prince of Salzburg for the royal visit of Archduke Maximillian Francis of Austria.

It tells the story of Alessandro – based on Alexander the Great. He has recently conquered Sidon and is looking for the rightful heir to the throne. He believes it is the shepherd Aminta, who is in love with the noble Elisa. Aminta must decide if royal duty is greater than love.

This new production is directed by Jack Furness, while Adrian Kelly once again takes on conducting duties. Scottish mezzo-soprano Katie Coventry sings the role of the shepherd, with Gloucestershire-born soprano Ellie Neate as the woman he loves. Anglo-Irish tenor Joseph Doody is Alessandro.

Performances take place on 9, 13, 17 and 20 July at 7.15pm. The venue is Buxton Opera House. Tickets cost £25-£85.

A new production of Handel’s Baroque opera seria Orlando will be performed by Liberata Collective and Ensemble Hesperi. Liberata Collective aims to recreate the original opera experience for modern audiences. It uses period instruments, provides printed libretti, and performs in the art of Baroque Gesture, rarely seen on stages since that period.

The plot centres on the obsessive and intense relationships between the knight Orlando, Princess Angelica, Prince Medoro and the shepherdess Dorinda, watched over by the magician Zoroastro. Orlando’s refusal to accept Angelica’s choice of lover leads him to madness and violence.

Musical director and historical performance expert Adrian Butterfield directs the opera from the violin. Trinidadian tenor Christian Joel is the eponymous hero, Swiss-British soprano Olivia Doutney stars as Angelica. The role of the prince is sung by British-New Zealand mezzo-soprano Joanna Harries. British soprano Susanna MacRae sings Dorinda and British baritone Jolyon Loy is Zoroastro.

Performances are scheduled for 2pm on 10, and 7.15pm on 14 and 21 July. However, the 10 and 14 July shows are already sold out. The venue is the Pavilion Arts Centre. Tickets cost £40.

All three productions feature accompanying talks from the creative teams behind each, giving insights into the history, music and vision behind the productions. Talks cost £3 each.

A fourth operatic offering is Women of the Windrush, a one-woman opera by composer Dame Shirley J Thompson and sung by British soprano Nadine Benjamin. It portrays narratives from the lives of a variety of women who travelled to the UK from the West Indies between the 1940s and 1960s.

Archive film and video projection interweave compelling stories from a cricketer’s wife, a student nurse, a concert pianist and a new bride, who all relate their experiences of arriving and settling in England. The performance takes place at the Pavilion Arts Centre, at 2pm on 21 July. Tickets cost £25.

Buxton International Festival also includes a series of classical, jazz and book events, along with guided walks. For the full programme and to buy tickets, go to the festival website.



Buxton’s Opera House will host two new productions as part of this year’s Buxton International Festival: Bellini’s La sonnambula and Mozart’s Il re pastore.