“ Address: Water Street / Buxton / Derbyshire / SK17 6XN „
Buxton Opera House
While on holiday in the Peak District I went to see a play at this beautiful Edwardian theatre. It is located in The Square next to the Pavilion Gardens and is a 900 seated opera house. For Sat Nav users the post code is SK17 6XN. It was originally built in 1903 and of Frank Matcham's design and was fully restored in 2001. It is a community theatre, catering for a wide range of tastes and ages and presents around 450 performances each year varying from opera, pantomine and children's shows. It attracts a host of famous names including, Peter kay and Ken Dodd. You can book by phone (08451272190) or in person from Monday to Saturday 10am to 8pm but we booked on line which was very easy to do and accessible 24 hours a day, although there is a small charge for doing this.
In the theatre the seating is arranged on three levels - the stalls, the Dress Circle and the Upper Circle. Theatre boxes are available at each side of the dress and upper circles. There is plenty of leg room between the rows in the Dress circle and I assume this is the same elsewhere in the theatre.
The theatre is beautifully decorated with theatrical friezes and gold leaf to give it a very grand appearance and the theatre seats have ornate casting on the arms and are very comfortable.
It is well known in the area for its different festivals, including, The International Gibert and Sullivan Festival. There is plenty of car parking facilities around the theatre. I can not give you any prices, as they vary from show to show but if you are in the area, it is worth going on the internet to see what is on as the shows change regularly.
No visitor to the Derbyshire town of Buxton on the edge of the Peak District National Park could fail to see the Buxton Opera House. I visit Buxton perhaps one day every month and I am ashamed to say that I have almost come to take this beautiful building for granted.
Until recently however this was never a place that I had been inside. Opera had never been high on my list of things to see but when a friend recently came over from America, visiting the Buxton Opera House was high on his agenda. It would seem that the reputation of this place really is worldwide, or at least its status has spread as far as California.
There is no denying that this building is grand by every definition of the word. It was designed by Frank Matcham who also designed London's Palladium and Coliseum. The Buxton Opera House, which opened in 1903 was however his first masterpiece. The London Coliseum and the London Palladium were both designed later, in 1904 and 1910 respectively.
The Buxton Opera House opened its doors to the public on the 1st June 1903. A full house was treated to The Prologue, which had been written specially for the occasion. This was followed by the first plays to be staged, "Mrs Willoughbys Kiss" and "My Milliners Bill".
Highly favourable reviews following this opening night were to ensure that for the next thirty years this venue would be one of the most successful in the country, attracting touring Shakespeare companies, West End shows, concerts, ballets and musical comedies. In 1925 Anna Pavlova performed the Dance of the Dying Swan here.
Despite these successes the demand for live shows was on the decline and the age of the movies was just around the corner. In 1927 a decision was made to turn this building into a cinema. The early films that were shown here were silent movies but in 1932 the theatre was wired for sound and talking films began to be screened here.
The venue flourished as a cinema well into the 1960's but then the audiences began to diminish and although the cinema remained open it began to fall into disrepair.
In 1976 the theatre closed and rumours quickly began to circulate that it would be too expensive to renovate so it would never re-open. It seemed as if the Buxton Opera House would be demolished.
A group of volunteers including several prominent national actors quickly managed to get the building classified as a Grade 2 listed building, which saved it from the bulldozers. Over the next 3 years the theatre was slowly restored and in 1979 it re-opened once again as an opera house and theatre. Further restoration work was carried out between 1999 and 2001.
The Buxton Opera House has been a remarkable success story and has now developed into a community theatre catering for a wide range of different tastes and ages. Today, this theatre continues to attract a host of famous names including Elvis Costello, Peter Kay, Timothy West, Bill Wyman, Ken Dodd, Honor Blackman, Courtney Pine, Prunella Scales and Jo Brand.
My recent trip to the Buxton Opera House was a surprise in more than one way. Firstly it did not involve going to see an opera at all and secondly the tickets were booked and paid for my friend who had simply told me to keep a particular date free.
We went to watch a play called "The Decorator", which despite my general ignorance on such things even I had heard of, although my knowledge of this play was somewhat limited.
"The Decorator" stars Leslie Grantham ("Dirty Den" from "Eastenders") in the lead role as an unemployed decorator. Since this is not a review of the play I guess that it is suffice to say that a fantastic evening was had by all.
On my many frequent visits to Buxton I have often walked past the entrance to this opera house, pushing my way past the ticket touts that can generally be found loitering outside, and I usually make a point of trying to peer inside.
Peering into the doorway cannot however prepare you for walking into the opera house. It is incredibly plush and very posh. The ceilings are very high and decorated in fancy gold leaf, in fact they were so grand I could barely take my eyes off some of the decorations. Inside the theatre itself there is also gold leaf on the walls as well.
Our seats were in the upper circle, but despite being a fair distance from the stage we could see everything that was going on very clearly. The acoustics are superb so there was also no problem in hearing anything that was said.
The seats in the upper circle are arranged in rows that are arranged on quite a steep incline. This design is obviously necessary to give the optimum view possible from each row, but it does take a little bit of getting used to, and I would certainly not recommend this seating area for anyone that may suffer from vertigo. On a more positive note there was ample space between the rows so leg room was not a problem.
Overall I had a wonderful experience at the Buxton Opera House.