In 1979 a new summer festival was inaugurated in the delightful town of Buxton, in the Peak District of England's county of Derbyshire. I went to the very first performance of the Buxton Festival, Lucia di Lammermoor, and have not been back since.
Let me explain - at the time I was working at Glyndebourne, a direct clash with the Buxton dates. It was always difficult to get away from Glyndebourne in the summer, even to have a day off. And a day off seeing opera elsewhere, however professionally desirable, was a problem for a young family with an already much preoccupied parent. In the meantime the festival developed hugely, and is now a premier destination for opera lovers, particularly for those searching for rarely performed (but good) operas.
Yesterday evening I was delighted to reconnect with Buxton, which is now under the guiding hand of its Artistic Director Stephen Barlow. Stephen joined the Glyndebourne music staff at the age of 23 in 1977. So we go back.......it was a pleasure to see him at a fund raising event organised as guests of the Nicholas Boas Charitable Trust in Mansfield Street.
It was a wonderful evening of music making for the immensely generous friends of the Buxton Festival. Stephen, now in his second year, is transforming it into what should become a most important multi disciplinary arts festival, comprising Opera, Chamber Music, and an important literary component. So a few days spent there will be total immersion in civilised things - in a unique little town of really special appeal.
Yesterday evening we had delightful Canadian soprano Gillian Keith and Australian Catherine Carby, two singers who will be part of the festival company next year, delivering an appealing mixed programme. We had Mozart, R. Strauss, A. Thomas, Gounod, and Bernstein.......and also Catherine's compatriot Percy Grainger.
Catherine Carby was a Neue Stimmen finalist in 2001. I had heard her in Sydney and was immediately struck by her distinction. I invited her to sing Penelope in Il ritorno d'Ulisse in Chicago in 2007 but family needs intervened. Her daughter is now five!.
She has now gone on from strength to strength with a series of outstanding productions with Opera Australia. The recent OA Rosenkavalier in which she was Oktavian is available on DVD - on the evidence of the two bits she delivered last night it is worth investigating further.
It is another grey day in London. We are promised a bright sunny chill tomorrow. I will rejoice if that is the case.