Buxton International Festival (BIF) announces its full programme for 2021, a stellar mix of opera, music and literature between 8 and 25 July.  Highlights include four operas – Errollyn Wallen’s Dido’s Ghost, Malcolm Arnold’s The Dancing Master, Handel’s Acis and Galatea and Pauline Viardot’s Cendrillon. The festival features a musical for the first time, Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music starring Janie Dee; a strong music series with Jennifer Pike as artist-in-residence and headline artists Dame Sarah Connolly, Sir John Tomlinson, The English Concert, the Fitzwilliam String Quartet and Natalie Clein. This year’s book series mixes opinion forming debate alongside cultural escapism with favourite voices from radio and television including Andrew Marr, Matthew Parris, Max Hastings, Polly Toynbee, David Walker and Petroc Trelawny. And for the first time, an opera and series of concerts and book talks will be available online.

In addition, BIF and Buxton Opera house will be launching Platform 3 this year, an initiative which provides an opportunity for all ages within the local community to create, perform, and engage with the Arts. As part of this new platform, the festival will showcase young singers from the Royal Northern College of Music in Cendrillon and a production of Jonathan Dove’s The Enchanted Pig with singers from Manchester University. 

The Festival branches out into a new venue for 2021 – the Assembly Rooms at Buxton Crescent Hotel, a grand 18th century ballroom with an ornate painted ceiling, which hosts much of the book series, some concerts and some of the Festival’s popular Music Salons alongside the iconic Palace Hotel.

Michael Williams, CEO of BIF commented: “We are delighted to announce our full programme for 2021, an eagerly-awaited mix of opera, music and books, which brings much-needed live music, literature and debate back to our spa town.  We’re stepping out of lockdown with a bold, forward-looking festival that includes co-commissions, ambitious new productions including a musical for the first time, headline musicians and a vibrant books programme that doesn’t shy away from controversy. For the first time in our 40-year history BIF will release a recording of one of the opera productions and a series of concerts and book talks will be available online.   Months of careful planning will ensure an exceptional artistic experience in a safe environment for visitors and artists alike.”

Highlights of 2021 Buxton International Festival (8-25 July):


  • Dido’s Ghost by Errolyn Wallen – a BIF co-commissioned production in partnership with the Barbican Centre, Mahogany Opera, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale and the Dunedin Consort, starring Idunnu Muench (Dido/Anna) and Matthew Brook (Aeneas) with a new libretto by Wesley Stace in Buxton Opera House. Director: Frederic Wake-Walker.  Conductor: John Butt. Dates: Sun 11 July, Wed 14 July and Sat 17 July at 7.15pm
  • Acis and Galatea by G F Handel – a co-production with the Early Opera Company of Handel’s Acis and Galatea starring Anna Dennis (Galatea) and Nick Pritchard (Acis) in Buxton Opera House. Director: Martin Constantine. Conductor: Christian Curnyn

Dates: Mon 12 July at 7.15pm. Sun 18 July and Tues 20 July at 2pm and 7.15pm

  • The Dancing Master by Malcolm Arnold, a co-production with conductor John Andrews (nominated for BBC Music Magazine’s 2021 Opera recording of the year) starring Eleanor Davies (Miranda) and Catherine Carby (Pru) with libretto by J H Mendoza in Buxton Opera House. Director and Designer: Susan Moore. Tickets: Fri 9, Tues 13, Fri 16 and Thurs 22 July at 7.15pm
  • Cendrillon by Pauline Viardot’s – a BIF production of the classic fairy tale Cinderella directed by Laura Attridge in the Pavilion Arts Centre. Dates: Mon 12 and Fri 16 July at 4pm and Sat 24 July at 2pm
  • A Little Night Music by Stephen Sondheim – Buxton Opera House and the Buxton international Festival are joining together for the first time to create a new production of Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning musical A Little Night Music, BIF’s first musical starring Janie Dee (Desiree). Director: Paul Kerryson. Conductor: Wyn Davies. Dates: Thurs 8 and Sat 10 July at 7.15pm and Thurs 15 and Sat 24 July at 2pm and 7.15pm.


  • The Enchanted Pig by Jonathan Dove – a BIF Platform 3 production of Dove’s charming chamber opera, designed to provide a platform for all ages to create, perform and engage with the arts starring Katherine Macaulay (Flora) and Jonny Reynolds (Pig).  Director/Co-Producer: Nick Bond.  Conductor: Katherine Stonham. Dates: Sat 10 at 12.30 pm and Sat 17 July at 2pm.


Buxton’s music series is as strong as ever, with familiar names including Artist in Residence, Jennifer Pike who gives two recitals at St John’s Church. Her first recital, with her regular duo partner Martin Roscoe, includes a composition by her father, Jeremy Pike (Tues 13 July at 3pm and 5.30pm); and her second recital with Russian-British pianist Petr Limonov, includes works by Szymanowski and Poldowski (Thurs 15 July at 12pm).   Other music series highlights include:

  • The English Concert with soprano Elizabeth Watts performing an all-Italian programme of operatic arias by Alessandro Scarlatti and short concertos from Vivaldi’s seminal, L’estro armónico (23 July at 3pm);
  • Mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly – queen of lieder – gives a recital of Poulenc and H Duparc as well as Mahler’s extraordinary Rückertlieder and Schumann’s Frauenliebe und-leben with Joseph Middleton (Fri 16 Jul at 12pm);
  • Cellist Natalie Clein performing a solo cello programme including JS Bach’s popular C major Suite No 3 and Z Kodály’s solo cello sonata. Op. 8 (Sat 17 July at 3pm and 5.30pm). Another notable cellist making his Buxton debut is rising star, Jamal Aliyev.  Jamal was a YCAT and Concert Artists Guild New York prizewinner and performs Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Franck and Paganini (Sat 24 July at 1pm)
  • Baritone Roderick Williams singing a collection of favourite English songs including six from G Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad and R Vaughan Williams’ much-loved Songs of Travel alongside favourites by I Gurney, B Britten and John Ireland with accompanist Susie Allan (Sat 17 July at 12pm);
  • Young recorder player Tabea Debus making her BIF debut performing her ‘Ohrworm’ (Earworm) programme with star lutenist Elizabeth Kenny, a collection of catchy tunes and dances by Telemann, Johann Schop and Gareth Moorcroft (Mon 12 July at 12pm);
  • The Consone Quartet, BBC New Generation Artists for the 2019-2021 season, performing classical and early romantic repertoire on period instruments including Haydn’s B flat major quartet and F Medelssohn’s E flat major (1823) classic (Mon 19 July at 3pm and 5.30pm);
  • Sir John Tomlinson and Rozanna Madylus performing The Shackled King by John Casken, a work with speech, sprechstimme and songs, which explores the parallels between Wagner’s Wotan and King Lear with The English Concert (Fri 23 July at 7.15pm)
  • Pianist Kathryn Stott giving a recital of toe-tapping dance tunes including Bartok’s popular Romanian Folk Dances and Argentinian Dances by Latin American composer, Alberto Ginastera (Fri 19 July at 3pm and 5.30pm);
  • Ensembles include the Fitzwilliam String Quartet, celebrating its 50th anniversary, with a traditional programme of Haydn and Beethoven (Weds 21 July at 3pm and 5.30pm) plus visits from the Equinox Duo, Trio Rouge and the Pelléas Ensemble.


The Festival’s literary programme is characterised by a mix of serious, ‘opinion forming’ debate, alongside events of cultured escapism with favourite voices from radio and television.Mixed throughout the programme are the Festival’s popular walks and ‘music and books’ Salons.  Highlight events include:

  • A debate on the strengths of our contemporary Prime Ministers with Julian Glover, Lord Adonis and Rachel Reeves (Sat 10 July at 10am);
  • Parm Sandu, the highest ranking British Asian female police officer in the Metropolitan Police and Stuart Prebble, former CEO of ITV, discuss their new book, Black and Blue (Sun 11 July at 10am);
  • Polly Toynbee and David Walker discussing fairness in society with The Lost Decade 2010-2020 (Fri 16 July at 10am);
  • David Reynolds heading up a debate on Brexit Britain with Isabel Hardman and Vernon Bogdanor (Mon 19 July at 10am);
  • History events from Neanderthal culture with Rebecca Wragg to Andrew Marr and his look at the modern ‘Elizabethan age’ (Weds 21 July at 12noon);
  • Nazir Afzal, former Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West and a fearless solicitor unafraid of resigning in order to speak freely on topics such as the Manchester Arena Bombing or child sexual exploitation, discussing his book The Prosecutor (Fri 23 July at 10am);                                     
  • BBC Radio 3 presenter Petroc Trelawny joining Simon Heffer for a debate about A Land Without Music (Sat 24 July at 10am);                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

And ‘favourite voices’ abound, from Reith lecturer Margaret Macmillan to religious commentator Giles Fraser and many, many more.


The Festival Salons in the newly restored Assembly Rooms at the Buxton Cresecent Hotel, celebrate the Festival’s unique triptych of opera, music and books. Each event features an author talking about a new book plus music from the period to complement the subject played by the soloists from the BIF company of musicians with authors Fiona Sampson, Laura Thompson, Wendy Moore, Sarah Aspinall and Ian Bradley.


The Box Office will be open for public booking on 4 May 2021 – Tel 01298 72190

For further information visit: www.buxtonfestival.co.uk