There really is nowhere more pleasant to be on a summer’s day, during the festival, than Buxton, in the Derbyshire Peak District. It was made into a spa by the 5th Duke of Devonshire, who built the Crescent in the 1780s; the buildings, having languished for decades, are being turned into a hotel, with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
But much of the town’s character dates from the period that the French would call the Belle Epoque, the Americans the Gilded Age, but for which we have no designation between late Victorian and Edwardian. Immaculate town park, romping opera house, leisurely winter gardens, a domed hospital that’s now a campus of the University of Derby— it all looked bandbox smart in the sunshine.
The spring waters still flow. Containers were being filled behind a well, dressed with a flower picture remembering the First World War. But it was the festival that had attracted the swarms of people, drinking Pimm’s in front of the opera house. After Kwasi Kwarteng, MP, on ‘War and Gold’, we saw a radiant production of Gluck’s Orfeo, set, more sympathetically than one might imagine, in the hippy era (the countertenor Michael Chance might have been one of The Beach Boys); then, finally, a concert that concluded with Strauss’s Metamorphosen. Bliss!
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