Getting ready to raise the curtain at Buxton Opera House once again
The stalls have been silent and there has been no backstage buzz but all that is set to change as Buxton Opera House is getting ready to open and welcome audiences back after its longest ever closure.
It is the jewel in the Peak District’s crown and after more than a year of being shut it is getting ready to sparkle again.
Opera House CEO Paul Kerryson said: “The Opera House stayed open during both world wars and the 1920 pandemic so it has been very strange to have it shut for so long but there is light at the end of the tunnel and when the curtain rises again in July it will mean we have turned a corner and leave behind the darker days."
The Opera House will reopen on July 8 for the Buxton International Festival (BIF) and the first performance will be A Little Night Music which is being directed by Paul.
He said: “It’s a great comedy musical with a West End leading lady and will bring people joy and make them laugh which is just what we all need.”
The BIF will then be followed by the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival and both of these are going ahead because of a £240,960 culture recovery grant which will enable the shows to be at a reduced capacity and socially distanced.
Paul said: “We are thrilled to receive a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund. It is certainly a vote of confidence in the organisation and an acknowledgement of how much Buxton Opera House means to the High Peak area.
“This grant is vital to the recovery of Buxton Opera House. It will ensure that we can welcome back staff, audiences, and artists to a safe environment and to an exciting programme of artistic events and extensive Learning and Engagement activities.”
The plans for reopening include the box office which is now open to the public. Precautions are in place such as social distancing, hand sanitiser stations, and screens at the box office windows.
While the foyer will be open, customers are asked only to enter the building if purchasing tickets. Customers are still being encouraged where possible to book online in advance, and to use card transactions as much as possible.
Paul said: “Things will be different when the audience comes back but I think it needs to be, we have taken measures to keep people safe and we want people to feel safe when they are here.
“Our autumn and winter programme will see the return of the big shows from dancing, to ballet, to rock music, comedy and of course the much loved panto which we weren’t able to put on last year - we will have something for everyone.
"The panto is a big deal to our local residents and for some of the younger children it may be the first time they ever experience a theatre setting and we were disappointed we weren’t able to put on the show.
"In the summer after the first lockdown we were hopeful of returning to normal but then in September we saw cases rising which lead to a second lockdown and the tier restrictions so we have been in a position where we thought everything would be okay but it wasn’t.
"Now we are cautiously excited to reopen especially as so many people have had the vaccine now which should help stop another lockdown.”
Paul says the acts signed to perform in the later part of the year are well-known household names including a strong comedy line-up which he says has always been a crowd pleaser.
"For a theatre in the middle of the hills we consistently get some big names to take to the stage which is great and a credit to the Opera House’s history and future.
"Performers like Alan Carr and Sarah Millican need 900 tickets sold not the 350 we will be operating during our socially distanced shows so I’m looking forward to seeing the theatre full once again with the names that make us laugh and make us smile.”
The return of live shows and the cinema in the Pavilion Arts Centre can attract as many as 1,200 people to Buxton in one night and will also boost the town’s hospitality economy.
"Coming to the theatre is a treat - you make a night of it by getting something to eat beforehand and a drink afterwards, so not only is it brilliant news for us that shows are returning but also for the pubs, restaurants and hotels nearby.
"With less people holidaying abroad there will be more people holidaying in the UK this summer and we are hoping for a busy season as people give in to a bit of me time as there is only so many times you can do online quizzes in your living room or go for a walk but coming to the theatre will be a nice outing after so many months of monotony.”
Paul added: "The buzz you get when you see people walk up the slopes to the main doors ready for a night out is one I have missed and one I can’t wait to see again.
"It’s been a tough year for staff and particularly the performers who are all freelance but we’ve come through it together.”
A mini brochure will soon be available for audiences to get a taste of what shows are in store later this year. Further information about reopening and exciting additions to the programme will soon follow, including announcements about this year’s pantomime casting.
To buy tickets contact Buxton Opera House Box Office, 01298 72190 or visit: www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk.