All aboard the new CLASSICfest!

NADV 1202031 Gilbert and Sullivan event launch. Director of The Harrogate International Centre Angus Houston with The Mayor of Harrogate Les Ellington, The Mayoress of Harrogate Christiine Ellington, Ian Smith artistic director of the event  with members of Theb Harrogate Gilbert and Sullivan Society Oliver Smith, Graham Hardman, Graeme Coleman, Graham Woods, John Keogh and Andy Wilkinson. (1202031AM)
NADV 1202031 Gilbert and Sullivan event launch. Director of The Harrogate International Centre Angus Houston with The Mayor of Harrogate Les Ellington, The Mayoress of Harrogate Christiine Ellington, Ian Smith artistic director of the event with members of Theb Harrogate Gilbert and Sullivan Society Oliver Smith, Graham Hardman, Graeme Coleman, Graham Woods, John Keogh and Andy Wilkinson. (1202031AM)

A TASTE of the entertainment to come was provided at the press launch of Harrogate’s new international festival of opera and operetta.

Costumes from Gilbert & Sullivan were the order of the day at the Royal Hall last week as organisers and councillors announced their plans for this exciting new cultural event.

Running from Tuesday, August 21 to Bank Holiday Monday, August 27, CLASSICfest is being brought to Harrogate by the Yorkshire organisers of the highly successful International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival, which this year will celebrate its 19th anniversary.

Festival director, Ian Smith said the plans had been receieved with ”unsurpassed enthusiasm.”

Ian thanked the Harrogate Mayor Coun Les Ellington and Mayoress Mrs Christine Ellington, staff from the Harrogate Theatre, Royal Hall, International Auditorium and Majestic Hotel and the many representatives from the Harrogate Accommodation Bureau and local guest houses for their warm welcome and exceptional support. Already he had seen an excellent response to the initial announcement with visitor bookings arriving from USA, Canada and around the country.

A party of 100 performers and supporters were coming from Northern Ireland and a special train would bringing 400 visitors from London to Harrogate for the day.

He was confident that CLASSICfest would become a huge annual success and he was already making plans to extend the festival in 2013 with links to the Budapest Operetta and Musical Theatre other European partners.

Festival director Ian Smith is thrilled and excited at the initial response to the Harrogate announcement.

He said: “Twenty years ago we had an idea to bring operetta and light opera to Harrogate along with Gilbert & Sullivan.

“Now we have another opportunity to build CLASSICfest into a magical, international event in Harrogate.”

The organisers of CLASSICfest hope it will quickly establish itself as the major European Festival for all forms of musical theatre and other artistic ‘classics’ of the last 150 years.

Festival director Ian Smith said: “We have a fantastic programme for this first event with performances of Quaker Girl, Chess, Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus, A Little Night Music, HMS Pinafore and The Mikado.

“We will also celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with an extravaganza of the very best of English music in the auditorium of the Harrogate International Centre with a choir of 600 plus voices .

“A Festival Fringe is currently being finalised and will include an afternoon of Flanders and Swann and a visit from The Mousetrap Man – the artistic director of the world’s longest running play.

“We also plan a late night Festival Club with cabaret every evening in the Majestic Hotel.”

Harrogate Borough Council leader, Don Mackenzie, welcomed the securing of the new festival.

He said: “This is very good news, indeed, for Harrogate District, for our residents, especially those who love musical theatre, and also for all those businesses which rely on visitors coming to the district and spending money in our hotels, restaurants and shops.

“The opportunity to host the Festival passed us by 20 years ago. This time every effort was made at various levels - including at the political level, with Andrew Jones MP involved in early talks - to ensure that Mr Smith would bring part of his world-renowned festival to Harrogate in 2012, and those efforts will continue to make Harrogate its permanent home after that”.

The Festival Programme:

Tuesday, August 21:

The Festival will open in Harrogate Theatre with a performance of Quaker Girl presented by Northwest Productions.

A wonderful piece of Edwardian Musical Theatre, Lionel Monckton’s traditional production features a youthful and talented cast of over 40 members.

Wednesday, August 22:

Harrogate Theatre will see a performance of Chess by the hugely talented and award-winning Fusion Theatre Group from Northern Ireland.

Founded in 2000, as part of an effort to build bridges between young people from different political and religious backgrounds in the Lisburn area, Fusion Theatre has emerged as Northern Ireland’s premier youth theatre group.

Thursday, August 23 and Friday, August 24:

Trent Opera will present Franz Lehar’s delightful operetta, The Merry Widow at Harrogate Theatre.

Often called The Queen of Operettas, the melodies and songs - Vilja, The Merry Widow Waltz, You’ll Find Me At Maxim’s, to name but a few, are sung the whole world over.

Trent Opera has won many awards including the International Trophy at the G&S Festival in Buxton and first prize at the Waterford Festival in Ireland,.

For its second performance in Harrogate, it will perform of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music on August 24.

One of Broadway’s most neglected masterpieces, this romantic production deals with the universal subject of love, in all its wondrous, humorous and ironic permutations.

Saturday, August 25:

The Royal Hall will be the venue for Saturday’s entertainment when the highly acclaimed, professional Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company perform a brand new production of HMS Pinafore (matinee and evening performances).

Founded in 1995 to perform at the G&S Festival in Buxton, The Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company are renowned for producing the very best G&S seen anywhere in the world.

Sunday, August 26:

The 2,000-seat Harrogate International Centre Auditorium is a fitting venue for a Jubilee Choral Spectacular.

More than 600 jubilant voices will celebrate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. Their voices will raise the roof and pay homage to some of our best-loved English music and songs.

Backing will be provided by the acclaimed National Festival Orchestra and featuring stars from London’s West End and major British Opera companies.

Please note, there is still space for any individuals or choirs who would like to take part.

Telephone 01422 323252 for more information.

Sunday, August 26:

There is another opportunity for participation when CLASSICfest offers a week-long performance masterclass which culminates in a fully staged production of Die Fledermaus presented in the Harrogate Theatre on the Sunday evening.

The show will be put together with a week of intensive rehearsals in Harrogate under the direction of award-winning international director, Alistair Donkin.

Auditions will take place in Harrogate on Saturday, April 28. Full details are available on 01422 323252.

Monday, August 27:

The Royal Hall plays host to the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company which will perform matinee and evening shows of another brand new production of The Mikado.

For more information, visit www.gsfestivals.org