Opera Study Day: Behind the scenes and in-depth insight into this year’s opera productions

This popular event returns to enhance your enjoyment of the Festival with in-depth introductions to this year’s Festival opera productions: Orlando, La Sonnambula, Il re pastore and The Land of Might-Have-Been.

In view of the high demand anticipated for places, we recommend early booking. The cost per ticket of £45 includes a light sandwich lunch with coffee.

This event takes place at the Best Western Lee Wood Hotel on Park Road in Buxton. There are trains from Manchester to Buxton regularly throughout the day; if you are travelling by train, the station is a short 15 minute walk away from the hotel. Check the latest train times here.


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10.15​​ Arrival coffee

10.30​​ Harry Fehr, Director

La sonnambula, Bellini

11.15 Adrian Butterfield, Music Director

Olivia Doutney and Susanna MacRae, Liberata Collective co-founders

​​Orlando, Handel

12.00 ​​Sandwich buffet lunch

13.15​​ Michael Williams, Lyricist

​​The Land of Might-Have-Been, music by Ivor Novello

14.00 Jack Furness, Director

​​Il re pastore, Mozart

14.45​​ Ends

(Please note the order of the programme can change)

Harry Fehr is a British-born opera director. Harry Fehr is establishing an international reputation for thought-provoking productions explored through clear story-telling. His recent projects include Tosca for the Nederlandse ReisoperaRoberto Devereux for Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe and Orlando for San Francisco Opera. Harry directed La finta giardiniera and I Capuleti e I Montecchi for the Buxton International Festival.  

Olivia Doutney and Susanna MacRae met in London in 2014 and quickly developed a strong personal and professional connection over a shared desire to produce their own projects and a shared passion for opera, with a particular curiosity for baroque and contemporary repertoire. Between them, the two women have nearly two decades of professional solo experience on opera and concert stages and both enjoy vibrant international careers. Susanna is a lyric coloratura specialising in contemporary and baroque; recent highlights include premiering German Child in Noah Max’s chamber opera A Child in Striped Pyjamas to critical acclaim, whilst Olivia is stepping into dramatic repertoire, debuting the title role in Puccini’s Turandot with La Fabrique Opéra Grenoble in France this year.


In 2021, Olivia and Susanna formed Liberata Collective, with the goal of bringing back the style of performance that Handel’s own troupe of performers were accustomed to. In an industry in which the stage director rules the production and Regietheater (which the women certainly believe has its place!) becomes more and more widespread, Olivia and Susanna saw an opening for a company that would perform early opera through the expressive Historical Acting method of Baroque Gesture in order to tell stories clearly, rather than through abstract production concepts that can leave the audience struggling to piece together the development of the plot. They are delighted to bring their first production of Handel’s Orlando to Buxton International Festival this summer.

Michael Williams is a writer of plays, musicals, operas and novels. He has written several operas for young people based on African mythology published by Heinemann Press in the anthology South African Operas for Young People. He wrote book and lyrics for the Stephenson musicals Who Killed Jimmy Valentine?, Animals, Wonderfully Wicked which have toured theatres throughout South Africa. In 2017 his musical Tiger Bay – The Musical (James), commissioned by the Wales Millennium Centre, opened at Artscape in Cape Town and transferred to the Donald Gordon Theatre in Cardiff. His play Water Carriers was performed in theatres in Indianapolis, Brooklyn and New York.  He has written the libretti for several symphonic operas with Roelof Temmingh – Enoch, Prophet of God, Sacred Bones, Buchuland, – which premiered in opera houses in Pretoria, Windhoek, and Cape Town. He wrote the lyrics for a jazz opera, Love & Green Onions (Weale) based on Zakes Mda’s novel Ways of Dying which was invited to open the Arts Festival in Grahamstown. NorlandOperan in Sweden commissioned and produced two his operas Poet & Prophetess (Larsson-Gothe) and The Elephant Man (Unander-Scharin) He wrote the book and lyrics for Mandela Trilogy (Van Dijk/Campbell) which toured to theatres in Ravenna, Munich, Manchester, London, Birmingham, Southampton, Dublin, Cardiff, Dubaiand Hong Kong. He is the prize-winning author of thirteen novels.

British stage director Jack Furness is the founder and Artistic Director of Shadwell Opera. He studied music at Cambridge University, where he received a double first-class honours degree, and in the 2015-16 season he was an Emerging Artist Director for Scottish Opera.  Recent directing credits include Candide (Scottish Opera); Rusalka (Garsington Opera, Edinburgh International Festival); Don Giovanni (Nevill Holt Opera); Gianni Schicchi (Copenhagen Opera Festival); Dido and Aeneas (Royal Academy of Music).


Opera Study Day