Guest blog: a Buxton connection

Growing up in Buxton I never really considered that a career in Opera would ever be an option. In my head it was posh people in suits singing Nessun Dorma at football matches and that was about all I knew of it. How wrong I was! It wasn’t until the age of eleven when I developed an interest in singing and started having lessons with local teacher Clare O’Neill that the ball really got rolling. The beginnings of my singing training coupled with education projects at both the Buxton Festival and the G&S Festival sparked a love for all things opera and a career that I adore.

One of the earliest projects I was involved in at the Buxton Festival was a production called Burning Waters in 2000. This was a massive open-air promenade opera that moved all around the Pavilion Gardens and involved children from schools across the town to help perform, make costume, props and even write some of the libretto. I was chosen by my school to work with the librettist and help come up with some of the lyrics for the part of the opera that our class would be performing in. This alone was exhilarating but then getting to hear hundreds of people singing the words that I helped write was mind-blowing at that age. Little did I know that the director of this production, Caroline Clegg, and also some of the professional singers would become close friends and colleagues in the years to come as I moved into opera as a profession.

Move forward sixteen years and then having gone off to train at the RNCM before deciding to take the plunge and move into directing I was delighted when Stephen Barlow asked if I would like to be Assistant Director on this year’s production of Tamerlano. For me this opera is one of Handel’s greatest. The level to which people go to play with other’s emotions makes it truly heart wrenching stuff.

Getting to work with Francis Matthews on this production has been a fantastic experience as a young director. The level of insight into the character’s minds that Francis has and the different layers within them has been fascinating to pick apart. Being a part of this discovery process has been wonderful and I think we all feel like we’ve really got to know these characters and what makes them tick. I’m thoroughly looking forward to getting to pick it apart again still for the Scenes performance in a few weeks’ time with our covers. We’re still finalising a few details but let’s just say we’re planning to rock it out!

Mark Burns Tamerlano Assistant Director

The Tamerlano cover show is on 19 July at the Palace Hotel.

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