A festival fit for a Queen

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THE 19th International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival will truly will be one fit for a Queen - celebrating the Diamond Jubilees of both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.

The three-week programme, which opens at Buxton Opera House on Saturday July 28, will include 50 full-scale performances in the historic Frank Matcham-designed Edwardian theatre and the neighbouring Pavilion Arts Centre.

Festivities will begin with a truly Victorian theme – celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of 1897 and the era to which Gilbert & Sullivan made such a wonderful and lasting contribution. ‘Queen Victoria’ will arrive by coach and horses supported by a full entourage of ‘living historians’ suitably attired for the occasion. There will be Victorian demonstrations, a nostalgic return of the Good Old Days Music Hall, performances of Merrie England by Matlock G&S, and author Ian Bradley will discuss the music that Sullivan was commissioned to write for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

There will be lots of ‘living history’ during a display of life in Victorian times and it will all culminate in The Buxton Proms in the Opera House on Sunday July 29, starring Richard Suart and Jill Pert with an augmented National Festival Orchestra conducted by Timothy Henty.

The Festival’s highly-acclaimed professional Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company will perform four new productions during the festival - The Mikado, HMS Pinafore, The Gondoliers and the first fully-staged professional production of The Grand Duke in the UK since its original run in 1896.

Fraser Valley Stage are travelling all the way from British Columbia, Canada, with their production of HMS Pinafore. From South Africa, Cape Town G&S Society bring their production of The Yeomen of the Guard with a cast of over 50, and also competing for the Festival’s coveted International Champion’s trophy will be an additional ten fantastic societies from around the UK.

Students from Birmingham, Newcastle, Manchester and Southampton universities will all perform fully-staged shows in the Pavilion Arts Centre, along with the Festival’s popular Youth Production, Stage by Stage from Exeter and North West Productions from Liverpool.

Festival Chairman Ian Smith said: “I am more than delighted to see so many young people enjoying Gilbert & Sullivan. We are also pleased to welcome students from the Hungarian University of Music who will perform an Operetta Gala on August 1. It should be very special.”

There will also be a fringe programme packed with new and exciting productions, lectures and talks. The world premiere of The Time Traveller will take place on August 6, and there is much anticipation for festival goers to see the professional, gothic interpretation of Ruddigore performed in Spanish by Egos Theatre from Barcelona.

l For more details about the 19th International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival, visit www.gsfestivals.org. To purchase tickets, contact the Opera House Box Office on 0845 1272190 or visit www.buxtonoperahouse.org.