Buxton Opera House
Buxton Opera House is in The Square, Buxton, Derbyshire, England. It is a 902 seat opera house that hosts the annual Buxton Festival and International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, among others, as well as pantomime at Christmas, musicals and other entertainments year-round. Hosting live performances until 1927, the theatre then was used mostly as a cinema until 1976. In 1979, it was refurbished and reopened as a venue for live performance.

It was built in 1903 and designed by Frank Matcham, one of Britain's finest theatre architects. He also designed two famous London theatres: the London Palladium (1910) and the London Coliseum (1904). The Opera House ran as a successful theatre, receiving touring companies until 1927, when it was turned into a cinema. Silent films were shown until 1932 when the theatre was wired for sound and could present ‘talkies’. The Opera House also became the venue for an annual summer theatre festival from 1936 to 1942, two of them in conjunction with Lillian Bayliss and her London-based Old Vic company. After the Second World War, the theatre continued to serve as a cinema, gradually falling into disrepair until it was closed in 1976 and renovated in 1979. Since then, the Opera House has been a full-time venue for stage productions, presenting approximately 450 performances per year, including opera, dance, musical theatre, pantomime, comedy, drama, children’s shows and concerts. The theatre complex also includes the 369-seat Pavilion Arts Centre (formerly the Paxton Theatre), and the Octagon auditorium, as well as a restaurant with a bar and gift shop. The arts centre stage area can be converted into a separate 93-seat studio theatre. The theatre is staffed by a small full time technical crew for all the backstage work, setting up all the shows and artists that appear. Volunteers from the local community are also employed for front of house duties including bar work and ushers.

In October 1976 the Opera House was closed and rumours circulated that it would never reopen. In 1979 however, a major restoration took place with people both from the local area and across the UK helping with the work. An orchestra pit was also added to the original Frank Matcham design which was otherwise largely unaltered since 1903. In the early 1990s, it was determined that more work was needed to repair and modernise the theatre. Therefore, between October 1999 and June 2001 an extensive program of both internal and external restoration took place. In February 2007, another refurbishment was completed at the Opera House that saw the installation of air conditioning in the gallery and backstage area, new seats in the gallery and upper circle, a new get-in lift to replace the ramp and new backstage working lights as well as re-wiring and painting the backstage area and dressing rooms. The current capacity is 902 seats.

Since July 1979, the Opera House has been home to the Buxton Festival, which runs for about two weeks in mid-July and has developed into one of Britain's largest opera-based festivals. Typically, it includes a Handel opera (with conductors such as Harry Christophers) and other rarely-seen operas as well as more popular classics. Running alongside it is the Buxton Festival Fringe. It is popular as a warm-up for the Edinburgh Fringe, and it now claims to be the largest 'true' fringe festival in the UK. Since 1994, the Opera House has also hosted the annual three-week-long International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, attracting audiences from all over the UK and from abroad. It is an adjudicated competition among amateur G&S societies and also presents professional performances and fringe events. The Opera House presents over 400 performances each year. Since 2004, the Opera House and the neighbouring Pavilion Gardens have hosted the annual Four Four Time music festival which sees a wide variety of musical performances over one week in February. Performers for the 2008 festival included Marc Almond, Richard Hawley, The Stranglers and Boy George.



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