STAR ATTRACTION: Behind the scenes at Buxton Festival

Backstage at Buxton Opera House during rehearsals.
Backstage at Buxton Opera House during rehearsals.
  • The 37th instalment of the Buxton Festival kicks off tomorrow (Friday)
  • Arts extravaganza will feature over 140 productions, acts and literary personalities
  • Many of the large-scale events will be hosted in the spa town’s historic opera house
  • The festival runs until July 26. For tickets, call the box office on 0845 127 2190

It’s the most exciting thing in the world. To sit in the auditorium on the opening night and see people enjoying it, and just think ‘yeah, we did it.’”

Randall Shannon is speaking while keeping one eye on the latest rehearsal of Verdi’s Giovanna D’Arco - one of the star attractions at this year’s Buxton Festival.

Rehearsal of Giovanna d'Arco.

Rehearsal of Giovanna d'Arco.

The 37th instalment of the festival kicks off on Friday - but preparations for the event began as long ago as last year.

Randall, executive director, says the planning for such a large scale event never stops at the town’s opera house.

He said: “It’s relentless. The planning for next year has started already, and we know what we’re going to do.

“It’s just working on the schedule now.

A lot of people think working in the theatre is relaxed but it’s incredibly disciplined.

Randall Shannon, Executive Director of the Buxton Festival

“We’re actually trying to increase planning to two years in advance.

“A lot of people think working in the theatre is relaxed but it’s incredibly disciplined.”

With the festival set to play host to more than 140 productions, acts and literary personalities, the theatre’s schedule runs an understandably tight ship.

Randall insists that schedules must be strictly adhered to, especially when it comes to the festival’s opera performances.

A devil makes his way to the wings.

A devil makes his way to the wings.

He added: “Everything has to run to a tee. We’ve got a three-week schedule of what happens on the hour, every hour.

“Six weeks before opening, rehearsals start down in London.

“Then the set comes up to Buxton and it all finally comes together. It’s a very meticulous programme.”

More than 150 people are involved in the build-up to the festival.

Make-up artist Jackie Sweeney puts the finishing touches to Jamie Rock.

Make-up artist Jackie Sweeney puts the finishing touches to Jamie Rock.

This includes the orchestras, designers, backstage staff and producers among many others.

The opera house is a hub of activity in the lead up to the festival, with most people working 12-hour days in the run-up to the opening night.

When touring behind the scenes it is easy to see that there is a family feel about the place.

That is not just reflected in the endless smiles that greet visitors, but also in the respect among everyone backstage - whether they be the leading role, a sound technician or a volunteer.

Production manager Sam Fraser is certainly testament to that family feel.

His father Malcolm is the founder of the festival and he says it is nice to be part of such a production.

He said: “I’ve been involved for the last six years.

“My dad started festival in late 1970s so for me it’s really nice to come back and work on it.”

Meanwhile, a host of stars poised to perform at this year’s Buxton Festival have been waxing lyrical about the town.

Jamie Rock, a baritone who is set to perform in ‘Louise’, says that the long days are rewarded by performing in the heart of the Peak District.

“We do 12-hour days but it’s very enjoyable,” he said. “It’s really rewarding once the shows start.

“I was here last year and it’s great coming to Buxton.”

Georgina Stalbrow is part of an ensemble in three separate operas at this year’s event.

She said: “It can be quite intense with the long days. This is my first time at the festival.

“It’s such a relief to be working somewhere like Buxton. It’s beautiful.”

Australian soprano Kate Ladner is playing the part of Giovanna in Verdi’s Giovanna D’Arco.

She says that the town’s opera house is the perfect setting for the production.

“I know Buxton quite well,” Kate said. “It’s got a really nice family atmosphere.

“There are challenges, especially with the long days but the set is fantastic. It’s perfect setting for this theatre.”

• The Buxton Festival runs from July 10-26. Visit for a full programme.