AN INNOVATIVE open-air music festival is set to return for a second year following its successful debut in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Vache Baroque Festival defied all odds to launch in 2020 in the grounds of The Vache, a stately home in Chalfont St Giles.

Now, it is back with a full season from today, August 28 to September 5, with a varied programme of opera, drama and more - performed by renowned stars like actor Simon Callow and soprano Rowan Pierce.

Highlights include Bach and Milton: Paradise and Pandemonium, a dramatic reading of extracts from John Milton’s epic poems punctuated with the music of J.S. Bach, and two staged performances of Handel’s popular pastoral opera, Acis & Galatea.

This year, organisers will be working with local museum, Milton’s Cottage.

As the home of visionary poet and political writer John Milton, it was in this 16th century cottage that Milton wrote his epic masterpieces Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.

As 2021 marks the 350th year since the publication of Paradise Regained, organisers say they are “excited” to pay tribute to one of Chalfont St Giles’ most famous cultural figures in their 2021 programme.

The summer season starts with Bach and Milton: Paradise and Pandemonium on Saturday, August 28.

Stuck in the Garden of Eden with an irresistible temptation and the persuasive voice of Satan, Eve is faced with a moral dilemma.

Later, the devil is up to the same trickery in an attempt to reduce Jesus to the same humiliating fate.

Covering themes of obedience and defiance, virtue and sin, degradation and redemption, Milton forces us to confront life’s biggest dilemmas.

This will be a dramatic reading of extracts from John Milton’s renowned epic poems Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, brought to you by acclaimed actors Simon Callow CBE, Evelyn Miller and Ukewli Roach.

The readings will be punctuated by three J.S. Bach cantatas with texts linked to Milton’s themes (BWV 19, 54 and 80).

There will also be a thematic art installation featuring work from British sculptor Bill Woodrow for patrons to enjoy before the show.

Jonathan Darbourne is the musical director and confirmed soloists include Helen Charlston (alto) and Nick Pritchard (tenor).

On Friday, September 3, and Sunday, September 5, Acis & Galatea, Handel’s pastoral opera, will follow the romantic story of Acis, a mortal shepherd, and Galatea, an ethereal nymph, whose undying love is fated by the jealousy of the monstrous giant Polyphemus.

As Handel’s most enduring dramatic work, this beautiful tale of love, tragedy and prevailing hope will transport you to the idyllic utopia of nymphs and shepherds.

Directed by Sophie Gilpin, it is designed by Laura Stanfield and musically directed by Jonathan Darbourne.

Confirmed cast includes Rowan Pierce, James Way and Tristan Hambleton.

The festival has also launched its membership scheme VBFriends this year, which offers benefits like priority booking, access to special events and socials and exclusive content.

Go to for tickets.