Buxton Opera Festival 2023: The Land of Might Have Been by Ivor Novello and Michael Williams

The Land of Might Have BeenThe Land of Might Have Been
The Land of Might Have Been
This lively, foot tapping and and thought provoking musical, which premiered in Buxton on Friday, reflects the creative and lively face of the Buxton International Festival.

The Land of Might-Have-Been is built around the songs of Ivor Novello and tells a story loosely based on the lives of Vera and Edward Brittain before and during the First World War. Shirley Williams, the daughter of Vera Brittain, originally suggested the idea to Michael Williams, CEO of the Festival, who wrote the lyrics. Vera Brittain, feminist, pacifist writer and author of Testament of Youth, grew up in Buxton. She rejected the limitations of its upper class society with its chaperones and debutantes which provide the subject for some funny and memorable songs. The Buxton Ragtime Band is certainly a very catchy number.

The music and lyrics of Ivor Novello fell into the public domain last year, making this musical possible. Iain Farrington’s new orchestral arrangement of Ivor Novello’s songs captures their original appeal and makes them fresh and accessible to modern ears.

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The singing and the music was of the high standard we have come to expect at Buxton. The weaving together of the music and the voices was beautiful and shows what opera can bring to enhance a musical. Michaela Meazza’s choreography really captured the essence of each song and the dancing was great. The cast were all highly skilled and versatile.

With the sadness of the title song and the ever present theme of We’ll Gather Lilacs, the energy of ragtime and plenty of humour, The Land of Might Have Been is a winning mix. The audience loved it.

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