Buxton Opera House Theatre Tour

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20161125_124329Perhaps one of the shires greatest spectacles is the Buxton Opera House and two of the ladies had an outstanding tour of the famous theatre.

Walking passed this beautifully ornate historical building every day, the ladies didn’t quite have an understanding of just how important and influential the building was until Lady Tigerlily and Lady Wordsmith went on the theatre tour and learned about a gentleman and architect called Frank Matcham.

20161125_125751_hdrThe tour was absolutely packed so when you do decide to attend one, make sure you book well in advance (future dates at the end of this post). Trevor Gilman – Chairman of the Buxton Historical Society – was our tour guide and a highly informed individual. The conversation of the Buxton Opera house evolution from inception, to creation, to low brow theatre, to movie theatre to high brow theatre was told in fantastic detail and with great ease. It felt like Gilman was speaking to us of one of his favourite subjects with all the enthusiasm and detail an expert would have.

20161125_113206The tour started from the upper echelons and worked it’s way down to the orchestra pit until the eventual centre stage moment where we could all glimpse the theatre from those well trod floorboards across the stage.

20161125_113658So back to this Matcham fella. He was born Newton Abbott in 1854 and if you have liked a theatre in the UK it is probably thanks to Frank Matcham as he was the architect on the Buxton Opera House but also other great theatres such as the London Palladium and the Blackpool Tower Ballroom.

20161125_125116Matcham (seen in the photo above) had a great sense of grandeur and the Buxton Opera House is no different combining old world elegance with a heightened sense of romanticism.

20161125_125006(Architectural drawings of the Buxton Opera House)

20161125_125039Frank Matcham has a rather devout Society dedicated to his enormous talent that can be found HERE.

20161125_113926One of the first stops on the tour was the ladies toilets (seen in the above and below picture). What was so intriguing about the ladies loos was that it had a dumb waiter from the bar to the ladies toilets that would transport drinks during intermission to the ladies. Ha! How demure!

Lady Tigerlily is checking to see if her gin and tonic order has arrived yet.

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20161125_114344We were then shepherded to a prime location in the theatre to really observe the elegance and beauty of the theatre itself. One of my favourite stories told was of famous ballerina Anna Pavolva performing onstage in 1925 at the Buxton Opera House and budding screen star Mary Pickford sat in the audience watching. This moment encapsulated in time illustrates the evolution of performance and a part of how the theatre itself evolved from live theatre to film theatre and back to live theatre!

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20161125_115125We also loved all the detailing in and around the theatre. The gold leaf gilded theatre was full of intricate and symmetric tableaus’ one could admire. Such as the image above but even the golden boxes below are part of the ceiling in one singular corner of the theatre.

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20161125_115300Of course, the ladies couldn’t resist a cheeky selfie amidst the theatre backdrop. Clearly, we are enjoying this tour! Look at those smiles!

20161125_115336_burst01Apparently Colin Firth stood in front of this window for a picture that has been widely circulated. Excuse me, where did Mr. Darcy stand?

20161125_115458Here Trevor Gilman regales us with stories of the time Charles and Camilla came to the Buxton Opera House for a fundraising event and announced days later they were to be wed. The photos used in the media were of them at the Buxton Opera House event as that was the last place they were seen together publicly before the announcement.

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20161125_120848We continued on the tour backstage where Lady Tigerlily took a moment to prepare for her big leading role.

20161125_120923Uh oh! She may have been sent to the Manager’s Office for preparing for her big lead role in a play that wasn’t being performed today!

20161125_121255As little is seen of the backstage workings, usually a lot of the upkeep costs goes towards the front of house but you have to take a look at the well used dressing room door and just think of all the famous people who have walked in and out of that room over the many, many decades. The front of house may have panache but backstage is all about the buildings’ character.

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20161125_122511The orchestra pit is indeed a pit below the stage! It was quite dark, with low ceilings and incredibly warm. I couldn’t imagine forty-plus musicians crammed into that space with their instruments as well. The suffering they must go through to perform is indeed a labour of love. Which reminds me, I must always cheer the loudest for the orchestra so they may hear my gratitude at the end of a performance all the way down here!

20161125_122525_burst01Rest my feet? Don’t mind if I do!

These fabulous boots can be found at Room 49.

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20161125_122809The view of the theatre ceiling from the stage and…

20161125_122831Perhaps my favourite shot of the day was looking up at the ceiling on stage. All these gorgeous slats and curtain pulleys were a feast for the eyes and in perfect symmetry.

20161125_122932_burst01Gilman enlightens us to the theatre history.

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20161125_123149Lady Tigerlily is in awe of the buildings’ beauty.

20161125_123255The backstage curtain.

20161125_123403Oh, how many famous feet have walked across this stage floor?!

20161125_124102Ta da! Lady Wordsmith rehearsing for her big scene, which involves her from the neck up only!

20161125_124207We did speak of ghosts during the tour but were quite impressed to see a possible ghostly spectre walking across the stage while we were awaiting the perfect shot.

20161125_124705Restoration in the early part of the century.

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20161125_125709_hdrMost intriguing is the gold safety bars on the doors. Matcham was instrumental in inventing and fitting theatres with these safety bars after a few fires in theatres around the world had seen so many perish.

20161125_125714_hdrOverall the tour was about an hour and a half long and could have easily run to two hours. The space is a testament to Matcham’s ‘Edwardian Baroque’ design and one of his finest creations. Those ladies (and gentleman) that live in the shire are slightly spoiled to have such an affluent piece of architecture and theatre history on our very doorstep. Lady Wordsmith and Lady Tigerlily would highly recommend doing the Buxton Opera House tour and for a mere ten pounds your life can be as enriched as ours were for it.

20161125_125742_hdrAn enormous thank you to Cathy, Francis and the other volunteers that took care of every visitor on the tour along with the formidable Trevor Gilman with his abundance of knowledge.

Next Tours will be in 2017:

January 19th (11:00am)

February 2nd (2:00pm)

February 26th (11:00am)

March 3rd (11:00am)

March 28th (11:00am)

For tours happening throughout the rest of the year and onward, you can find details on the Buxton Opera House website.

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