My first opera

At Buxton International Festival we want our audiences to have an inspiring new experience at our operas. For those who have not been to an opera before we have put together some answers to the questions you might be asking about seeing an opera for the first time.

Opera at Buxton International Festival

Buxton Opera House Buxton International Festival

Which Buxton performance should I attend for my first opera?

This 2019 Festival season we recommend our new work Georgiana, the exciting story of the 5th Duchess of Devonshire, Georgiana Cavendish, and her life as a celebrity amongst dangerous liaisons, political activism, and reckless gambling. The sweeping romantic story and soaring music by Tchaikovsky in Eugene Onegin will also carry you away.


Is opera expensive?

It doesn’t have to be! Buxton opera tickets start from just £25, and we have a special under 35’s ticket for only £5.

Visit Buxton International Festival to discover more and find out what’s on this 2019 season or ring the Box Office to chat to one of our friendly advisors on 01298 72190.

Can I take photographs?

Buxton is full of spectacular architecture and scenic spots so please feel free to take as many photos as you like when outside the Festival venues and remember to tag us #buxfest19

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We politely ask that you do not use your mobile phone during the performance and photography and filming are not permitted.

Will I understand what is being sung?

Although some of our operas are sung in their original language, many will be sung in English. All opera performances at Buxton have surtitles by the side of the stage. Opera is an immersive musical and theatrical experience and so the action on stage often aids the understanding of the drama.

Do I need to read up about the opera before I attend?

We provide a synopsis of each of our operas in the Festival Programme Book and you can book to attend one of our £2 pre-Performance talks with the creative teams responsible for bringing the productions to the stage.

When should I clap at the opera?

It’s usual to wait until the end of an aria, or until a pause in the action, before clapping.

What shall I wear to the opera?

There is no set dress code at Buxton – although people like to dress-up a little for first nights, we want our audiences to feel relaxed so wear what you feel comfortable in. Buxton Opera House has limited air conditioning so in hot weather dress with that in mind.


What is opera?


The History of Opera

In Western tradition, an opera is a staged work set entirely to music with orchestral overture and continuous music and spoken song (recitative), arias and chorus.

Developed in early 17th century Italy, opera has been an artform for over 400 years – a unique combination of theatrical and musical performance.

During the early Baroque period composers like Monteverdi, Handel and Vivaldi were at the forefront of the genre with famous works include L’Orfeo and Guilio Cesare. As the centuries progressed, so the trends in opera changed into the classical period when Mozart and his librettist da Ponte where at their zenith when many famous operas in today’s popular repertoire were composed including La nozze di Figaro and Cosi fan tutte.

At the turn of the 19th century opera entered the Romantic period when dominant composers included Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Puccini and Wagner and popular works included Eugene Onegin, Carmen, La Boheme, La Traviata, Madam Butterfly and The Ring Cycle.

In the Modernist period of the 20th century composers moved away from the traditional opera arias and famous composers of this era include Britten, Birtwistle, Adams and Turnage whose work include Billy Budd, The Minotaur, The Death of Klinghoffer and Anna Nicole.

Orpheus in the Underworld - photo Nathan Cox

Orpheus in the Underworld – photograph by Nathan Cox

Voice types in opera

You will hear many different voice types at the opera. The highest female voice type is the soprano who usually takes the leading female role. The lower female voice type is mezzo- soprano and is often used for so-called “trouser” roles, where the female singer performs a male role. The lowest female voice is called a contralto.

In male voice type categories, the highest modern voice type is a countertenor, with lower voice of a tenor often used for the male romantic lead. The baritone tends to be used for rogues and husbands, whilst the lowest male voice, the bass, is used for those in power.

Buxton International Festival 2019 is the perfect opportunity to dip your toes into opera for the first time and discover the operas being staged: a famous Russian romance, a Baroque discovery, a popular unpretentious romp through the underworld, and an unbridled scandal with resonances for today’s world.