Buxton International Festival launches 40th Anniversary Appeal

The Duke of Devonshire and Lesley Garret launching the 40th Anniversary Appeal

The Duke of Devonshire and Lesley Garret launching the 40th Anniversary Appeal - Credit: Archant

Scarcely has 2017’s Buxton International Festival ended than thoughts turn to 2018, as opera star Lesley Garret supports the 40th Anniversary Appeal to ensure that it continues to grow from strength to strength

Lesley Garret singing to the audience at the launch of the 40th Anniversary Appeal

Lesley Garret singing to the audience at the launch of the 40th Anniversary Appeal - Credit: Archant

Lesley Garret has sung in opera houses across the world – and even at Wembley Stadium to kick off the FA Cup – but two songs delivered in a marquee in Derbyshire had a special significance: she was helping to pay off a debt to a remarkable organisation which put its faith in her as a young artist when she was beginning to make her name: Buxton International Festival.

‘Four decades ago this Festival and I were in our professional infancy,’ said Lesley who volunteered to become Patron of the £1.5 million 40th Anniversary Appeal to secure its future.

‘I very much feel that we grew up together. Buxton Festival gave me two formative roles in the early years of my career, as they have for thousands of other emerging artists like me. I owe this Festival a debt I quite simply cannot repay,’ added Lesley, who won the CBE for her services to music.

The Festival continues to provide a proving ground for young musicians and singers fighting over a dwindling pool of roles to begin their careers. Buxton proudly produces its own operas from scratch, concentrating on rarely performed gems which attract audiences from across the world, giving the stars of the future a chance to shine.

Buxton Opera House Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

Buxton Opera House Photo: Richard Hubert Smith - Credit: Archant

‘I’m determined that young singers should benefit from the wonderful experience of working with Buxton International Festival, which gave me the perfect start to my career.’

The target of £1.5 million is roughly how much it costs to put on the Festival, which also includes concerts in musical styles ranging from baroque to jazz, as well as a thriving series of talks by leading authors and public figures.

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The Festival, which already generates £3 million for the economy of the area, also literally puts the opera into Buxton’s magnificent Opera House, ensuring that the building’s original purpose is fulfilled. The Appeal’s aim is to create a fund which will enable the Festival to expand as it moves into its fifth decade as the flagship event carrying Buxton’s name into the global arts arena.

‘There is something for everyone in this Festival. You cannot, even in this cash-strapped world, allow that great heritage that we have worked so hard for to fail for lack of effort,’ said Lesley.

Buxton Opera House Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

Buxton Opera House Photo: Richard Hubert Smith - Credit: Archant

‘Whether it is nurturing musical talent, the opportunity to work with first class international directors or the joy of singing in this perfect jewel of a theatre, it all points to the same thing: world class performances to knowledgeable audiences.’

Elijah Moshinsky, the New York Metropolitan Opera House director celebrated for his productions of Verdi, agrees. He directed the highly acclaimed Verdi’s Macbeth at Buxton this year, and said: ‘I have absolutely loved working for the Buxton Festival. There is no reason why Buxton cannot build a high reputation and make a significant imprint on the arts scene in England.’

And the Festival’s impact is also vital to Buxton’s future, believes the Duke of Devonshire, whose ancestors have had such an important role in its past by building the magnificent Georgian Crescent, the foundation for what is today England’s leading spa town.

‘Buxton is poised to become one of the most exciting new cultural destinations in Britain,’ said the Duke, President of the Festival, which grew from the combination of the community’s successful campaign to save its Opera House from development – as a casino of all things – and one man’s ambition to see it used for its original purpose.

The late Malcolm Fraser, the Festival’s founder and former Head of Opera at the Royal Northern College of Music, recognised that an opera house without opera is an empty promise, and he used his genius to create a festival which would excite the critics and aficionados as well as bringing life to the building.

‘In the same year as the Festival’s 40th anniversary, the magnificent Georgian Crescent will be fully restored to its former glory as a magnificent five star spa hotel, and leading elements in the town, together with the local authority and the University of Derby are now working on developing Buxton into a major year-round cultural destination,’ said the Duke, who added that the Festival is teaching children locally and regionally to love music in an outreach programme which has won European recognition.

‘There are plans for a major expansion of the outreach work to widen audiences and develop young talent,’ said the Duke. ‘But that future development depends on the continuing success of the Festival.

‘The Buxton International Festival has won recognition from the Arts Council as one of their national portfolio organisations and is described by The Metropolitan Opera House of New York as one of Europe’s great little unmissable opera festivals. In truth it’s not so little.

‘The opportunities are immense. But like all arts organisations in this country, the Festival continues to struggle financially. Ticket sales cover less than half the annual costs and despite national and international recognition the Festival’s annual financial battles continue.’

You can help the Appeal by making a donation, becoming an Appeal Angel which brings with it a range of exclusive benefits,

or by attending one of the exciting Festival fundraising events. To find out more, visit www.buxtonfestival.co.uk/appeal, or contact Joanne Williams, Development Manager, at joanne.williams@buxtonfestival.co.uk or phone 01298 70395.