One night only, Buxton Opera House, February 2022


International stars will descend on Buxton in February – and all for a good local cause.

The Sheriff of Derbyshire is passionate about many aspects of his hometown, but most notably the famous Buxton Opera House.

Louise Potter owned and operated the Old Hall Hotel, across from the theater, and links the success of her business to the success of the opera.

“It’s a cultural and architectural asset for the county,” she says. “I want to support her and increase her visibility in any way I can. ”

She chose to do it in a spectacular style. The richly decorated Opera House, built in 1903, is an outstanding example of the work of Frank Matcham, whose theater and music hall commissions included the London Coliseum, the Hackney Empire and the London Palladium.

Many have been modernized, but the Buxton wings are in their original condition, with dated systems that fall well short of today’s production requirements.

Paul Kerryson, who has enjoyed a distinguished career in musical theater, arrived at the Opera as director four years ago, and adores the place, hailing it as a “joy to see”.

He came from Curve, the most high-tech theater in the country, to Buxton, the most low-tech, and remembers being surprised when he walked behind the scenes that hadn’t changed since 1903.

“It was a nice glimpse into what it was like to work in an Edwardian environment, but more of a museum than a practical working theater,” he suggests.

“The uneven floor of the stage means we can’t attract dance companies. The hemp flight system means that we cannot make anything heavy fly. The small access area means we can’t attract the bigger designs and the tour companies just cut Buxton off their circuit.

“The locker room accommodation is poorly accessible, with two showers and two toilets for the entire company. And an underwater stream is still pumped by the original Matcham engineering but regularly floods the stage and orchestra pit! ‘.

“It’s a magical ‘theater in the hills’ and everyone is excited when they walk into the golden auditorium, but they might not realize what is behind the curtain and how difficult it is to bring in the best. productions at the Opéra Loger There is such a passion for the place on the part of the artists, staff volunteers and our key partners.

Buxton Opera House and Buxton International Festival have teamed up this summer to present the acclaimed new production of Sondheim by Paul Kerryson A little night music. Janie Dee, David Leonard and Gabrielle Drake led a star-studded cast: proof, if anything, of Buxton – and Kerryson’s – power to attract the best.

So, the senior sheriff metaphorically rolled up his sleeves and launched into a launching pad for a major fundraising campaign for the work needed – in the region of £ 15million.

In what is no doubt a triumph, she secured two renowned young opera stars – Danielle de Niese, soprano, and Nicky Spence, tenor – for a “For One Night Only” concert on February 18, 2022 which will launch the countryside with style.

“They have both appeared at the Royal Opera House this season and Danielle in Glyndebourne as well. We are so lucky they came here, ”she said.

“It’s a blow to us. We have the wonderful Northern Chamber Orchestra playing, with John Andrews at the helm, and the Adult Kinder Choir – led by Carol Prowse and Joyce Ellis – also singing at the concert.

Nicky spence
– Credit: Bertie Watson

Nicky Spence has performed several times at the Buxton Opera House before at the Buxton Opera Festival. “I vividly remember playing the villainous role of Iago in Rossini Otello a few years ago and I thought about what a privilege it was, ”he recalls.

“My first memory of Buxton acoustics was during a Handel tour Messiah when I sang the solos 18 years ago.

“We had glided through the icy hills in the dead of winter to get there, a real mission, but upon our arrival we were greeted by the most welcoming acoustics you can imagine and unparalleled friendliness, which goes hand in hand in Buxton. ”

He sang on the most famous stages in the world. Ask him his favorite and he thinks, “I really love singing at the Coliseum in London. It’s a big barn but the acoustics are friendly and I know almost everyone in the building from stage doormen to makeup artists which makes it special.

“The Metropolitan Opera in New York and Covent Garden are also unique. I recently sang Laca at the opera Jenufa for the Royal Opera by Janáček, who is my most beloved composer – up there with my most “pinched” moments.

Nicky enjoys being involved in the process of organizing the program – something shared between the artist, the committee, the conductor and the venue.

Danielle de Niese from Decca is heading to Buxton next February

Danielle de Niese from Decca is heading to Buxton next February
– Credit: Chris Dunlop

“It’s fun to create something special together and collaborate,” he says.

“Buxton’s program will be special. I can’t say too much about it, but there will be something for everyone between opera, musical theater and a few favorite concerts with the wonderful choir led by Joyce Ellis. ‘

For singers and all performers these days have been frustrating.

“Singing was quite dangerous during the pandemic as we basically breathe for a living, but I have been fortunate enough to participate in online performances and reenact seasons in operas such as Glyndebourne as the rest of my route has gone. been erased, ”he said.

Nicky also worked as a vaccinator, which he describes as a wonderful experience.

“It was a slightly selfish gesture as I was keen to help everyone protect everyone so that normal dramatic life could continue, but it meant I could vaccinate a lot of my friends, including conductors, singers and musicians, so they can go back to work, “he admits.

“Sometimes I would sing a bit of Schubert if I had a particularly agitated patient. I don’t know if it helped or scared, but it was worth going! ‘.

Nicky was the youngest singer to ever receive a scholarship from the prestigious Guildhall School of Music, while Danielle de Niese’s talent was spotted even earlier in life.

Born in Melbourne, she won the Australian “Young Talent Time” competition at the age of nine, winning AU $ 5,000 and a Yamaha grand piano, which she still owns.

She grew up in the United States, made her opera debut at 15, won an Emmy at 16, and first appeared in Glyndebourne in 2005.

She made her Royal Opera House debut in 2009, in Handel Acis and Galatéa, and dazzled stages around the world.

As a guest on Disks of the Deserted Island in 2018, she captivated with its warmth, revealing: “My mother told me, dare to dream. She instilled in us: “God has given everyone a talent and we must find out what is yours.” Music is more than ink on paper: it’s what you do when you remove the notes from the page that makes music. ‘

She describes opera as a multimedia experience: something with the values ​​of a play, a huge cast of singers, up to 80 musicians plus a choir … and not just for the elite.

“The good thing is we have these great opera supporters coming up and saying ‘we’re going to cover this bill’, there are ways for everyone to get in.”

“My whole life has been a kind of union of opposites, living both inside and outside the classical world,” she concludes. “I just want to be my real me and I hope that opens up people to the possibility that classical music can be as beautiful to them as any other music.”

Tickets for For One Night Only are on sale now at the Opera. Louise Potter also encourages donations, however small, to establish the fund. These can be done at:

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