World’s greatest G&S Festival arrives in Harrogate

Gilbert and Sullivan Festival highlight - The Pirates of Penzance by G&S Opera Company.
Gilbert and Sullivan Festival highlight - The Pirates of Penzance by G&S Opera Company.

By Graham Chalmers

It’s finally here - the world’s greatest Gilbert and Sullivan festival arrives in Harrogate this weekend after 20 years in its original Derbyshire home.

There are over 200 events in the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival which opens in Harrogate on Saturday with gala matinee and evening performances of The Mikado .

It’s one of the most popular of the Savoy operas, presented by the festival’s own professional Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company.

Festival chairman and artistic Director Ian Smith is very excited by the prospect of this feast of all things G&S.

“It’s our 21st anniversary, our most ambitious programme and our first time in Harrogate. We have been preparing for over a year

“Our fingers are now firmly crossed that theatre lovers from North Yorkshire will join our international audience and take full advantage of these timeless British musical masterpieces.”

This week pantechnicons have been rolling up with scenery for the 35 shows that will be presented in the Royal Hall and the 17 productions in the Harrogate Theatre.

That’s not to forget special events throughout the district at Knaresborough Castle, Fountains Abbey, Ripon Cathedral and Newby Hall.

Visitors are expected to arrive from across the globe for this huge, month-long event.

Ian said: “People are travelling literally from around the world. They are coming to enjoy Gilbert and Sullivan and to discover and enjoy Harrogate and its hospitality. We can’t wait to get started.”

Meanwhile, HIC’s Hall M which adjoins the Royal Hall is being transformed into the “Utopia Pavilion” – named after one of the G & S Operas, Utopia Limited.

It will be the main information point for the festival; the shop selling the memorabilia and souvenirs; a ticket booking office for the 200 plus events and the licensed restaurant, snack bar and lunchtime entertainment centre.

After the show it becomes the Festival Club with late night cabaret.

The opening week sees the nationally acclaimed G & S Opera Company present matinee and evening performances of The Mikado on Saturday and another favourite HMS Pinafore on Sunday.

There is a massive choice on Sunday with an outdoor matinee of The Yeomen of the Guard by Plymouth G & S Fellowship in front of the dramatic Knaresborough Castle; and at night a World War One Gala Concert commemorating Britain’s entry into the First World War at Newby Hall.

Festival visitors are also able to enjoy regular half day sightseeing tours around the district with a choice of a significant fringe programme based in the Crown Hotel.

In the opening week there is a Sullivan Spectacular programme which looks at the composer’s personal backround - largely without Gilbert. And a A Sullivan- loving Russian concert pianist will demonstrates Sullivan’s music for the piano.

Next Wednesday night, August 6 there will be a symphony concert in St Peter’s Church in Harrogate presented by the Royal Northern College of Music Symphony Orchestra.

Meantime back in the Royal Hall, there will be the start of the internationally-adjudicated competition with performances of Yeoman of the Guard (Monday); The Gondoliers (Tuesday); The Sorcerer (Wednesday); Iolanthe (Thursday) and the keenly anticipated arrival of America’s principal professional company The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players with Pirates of Penzance (Friday and Saturday) and Yeomen of the Guard on Sunday.

But Ian Smith is making one appeal: “ We need half a dozen young people from the area, aged between nine and 19 to join our youth production chorus of The Mikado.

“It rehearses in the town centre from Saturday, August 9 for performances in Harrogate Theatre on August 16. We have a great cast and now need a few more choristers.

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