Opera at Buxton International Festival

Johnny James, Managing Editor
WA Mozart’s Il re pastore (The Shepherd King), a Buxton International Festival Production, with the Northern Chamber Orchestra

8 — 20 July 2023 Tickets from £25.00 — Book now

Buxton International Festival is back this July, with more than 130 events – spanning everything from jazz to literature – programmed over 17 days across the beautiful spa town of Buxton.

Opera always plays a big role in the Festival’s offer, and this year’s productions will as usual draw opera fans from far and wide to the heart of Derbyshire’s Peak District. Highlights include three brand new productions – Vincenzo Bellini’s La sonnambula, GF Handel’s Orlando and Mozart’s Il re pastore – taking place at Buxton Opera House and the Pavilion Arts Centre between 7 and 23 July.

La sonnambula (8-22 July, Buxton Opera House) is a Buxton International Festival production featuring the Northern Chamber Orchestra. Its story is one of jilted love, jealousy and innocence-rewarded, while the score is packed with exhilarating melodies and dazzling vocal pyrotechnics. It was Bellini’s first great masterpiece, and cemented his status as one of the three great composers of the belcanto-era that dominated the Italian opera scene in the early 19th century. Under the baton of Adrian Kelly and directed by Harry Fehr, it promises to be a standout of the Festival.

Another standout will be Mozart’s Il re pastore (9-20 July, Buxton Opera House). It’s another Buxton International Festival production featuring the Northern Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Adrian Kelly and directed by young star Jack Furness, who makes his Buxton debut after garnering a string of five star reviews last summer. Written for the royal visit of Archduke Maximillian Francis of Austria, the plot is based on hypothetical moments from the life of Alexander the Great, while the music shines with inexhaustible melodic inspiration and sumptuously rich orchestration – all of which belies the fact that Mozart was just 19 when he wrote it.

Bringing something a little different is GF Handel’s baroque opera seria Orlando (10, 14 and 21 July, Pavilion Arts Centre). It’s one of three Handel operas based on Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando Furioso, Orlando, and stands as one of the composer’s most vibrant and experimental works. Presented by Liberata Collective and Ensemble Hesperi and directed by Adrian Butterfield, the performance will give you a glimpse of how Handel’s own audiences would have experienced his operas; the Collective will use period instruments, provide printed libretti, and most crucially, perform in the art of Baroque Gesture (rarely seen on stages since that period).

In stunning contrast, award-winning composer Dame Shirley J Thompson brings mesmerising instrumental music and song in her opera, Women of Windrush (21 July, Pavilion Arts Centre). Interweaving archive film footage and video production, this powerful and pioneering work presents the inspirational stories of a variety of women who travelled to the UK from the West Indies (1940s-1960s). Soprano Nadine Benjamin encapsulates the essence of the women’s experiences in this beautiful adaptation of Thompson’s original film, Memories in Mind (1992).

The opera series forms only part of a knock-out programme, which also features a brand new musical, The Land Of Might-Have-Been. For our wider look at Festival programme, head here.

8 — 20 July 2023

Book Now

Part of Buxton International Festival

What's on: Music

DJ Gym at Hatch

Learn some DJ and production skills with DJ Gym Manchester, based in the culturally infused surrounds of Hatch.

from £269
RNCM Summer Season 2023

Read our highlights from the RNCM Summer Season, from 50th anniversary celebrations to partnership events with MIF23 and Opera North.

Roger Waters at AO Arena

Pink Floyd legend Roger Waters brings his This Is Not A Drill tour to Manchester’s AO Arena, performing both solo and Pink Floyd material.

from £98.50
Darkside at New Century

Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington AKA Darkside bring their dreamy mélange of psychedelia, art rock and electronica to New Century.

from £31.42

Culture Guides


There's no rest for the art lover - this month brings outdoor sculpture, musings on water, political drawings and Liverpool Biennial 2023!


We look towards a summer filled with quality festivals, from cultural behemoths to grassroots gems.

Winnie the Pooh at Manchester Opera House

The sun has finally got his hat on! Enjoy our top picks of family-friendly events and activities, both indoors and outdoors.

Classical Music

Summer's classical music calendar is filling up nicely! Read our top picks of concerts happening in Manchester and the North.

Gerry Potter (credit Lee Baxter)

Books are big this summer, with festival readings, poetry slams, creative writing activities and famous faces all putting in an appearance.

Food and Drink

All signs point toward June being a scorcher of a month, so let’s take a look at all things summery food and drink.

Tours and Activities

From literary activities to brilliant independent shops, keep your minds and homes filled with the good stuff this month.

Theatre in Manchester

Check out our updated guide for lively theatre festivals, rip-roaring rooftop circus and dreamy outdoor shows.