By Graham Chalmers
The first-ever International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival to be held in Harrogate shows no signs of slowing down as it prepares to enter its third week.
Running until August 26, organisers say they’re delighted with the response of audiences in the Harrogate district so far after 20 years in their original base in Buxton.
And the top critics have added their support too. The festival received excellent reviews in the national press at the weekend, including the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express,
This wide-ranging festival is more than just a succession of top companies performing classic Gilbert and Sullivan.
Festival director Ian Smith said: “Crowds are loving the new venues. They love the Royal Hall and the central meeting point we have created next door in one of the exhibition halls.
“We’ve transformed it into a Utopia pavilion with lunchtime entertainment and our late-night festival club with cabaret, community singing, hot and cold food and a bar open all hours.”
There are many major highlights coming up over the next seven days, as well as shows by Gilbert and Sullivan societies from universities at Birmingham, Hull, St Andrew’s and York, youth productions, old time music hall, Flanders and Swann and more.
The Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company will perform Iolanthe in a gala evening at the Royal Hall on Saturday, August 16 and HMS Pinafore at the same venue the following evening.
Next week sees shows by Grosvenor Light Opera Company, Charles Court Opera, Godalming Operatic Society and Leeds Gilbert & Sullivan Society.
As well the the Utopia meeting point and club with its regular free lunchtime entertainment, the festival boasts an amazing array of G & S related events beyond the actual classic comic operas themselves.
Ian Smith himself will give a talk about the history of this long-running festival this Saturday morning at Harrogate’s Crown Hotel at 10.30am.
Starting at the same time in Utopia will be a G&S memorabilia fair which runs until 6pm.
Among other associated events, there will be a half-day coach trip to Nidderdale on Monday from outside the Royal Hall at 9.30am next Monday.
Among the talks will be an introduction to Sullivan’s Haddon Hall by David Trutt at the Crown Hotel at 10.30am next Wednesday.
This attention to detail and people friendly approach to presenting a festival partly explains the enduring success of what is the world’s greatest Gilbert and Sullivan Festival - that and the brilliance of Gilbert and Sullivan themselves.
One out of town visitor, Rachel Keegan from Ashford in Middlesex, said: “I’ve been going to Buxton for the past 12 years to the festival, so it was quite weird at first to hear it had moved to Harrogate.
“But, as soon as I has been here for just a day, it felt as though I had been coming here for years.”
For tickets, visit www.gsfestivals.org