G&S Co take Festival lead

FESTIVAL OPENER: A scene from the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company's The Mikado. Photo contributed.
FESTIVAL OPENER: A scene from the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company's The Mikado. Photo contributed.

The highly-acclaimed professional Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company return to the 19th International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival with four new productions.

The Festival, which runs from Saturday July 28 to Saturday August 18, opens with an all-time favourite The Mikado which will be directed by Simon Butteriss. Well-known to audiences in this country and overseas for his brilliant portrayals of the Gilbert & Sullivan “patter roles”, Simon will not only direct but star as the hapless Ko-Ko in this opening production.

Playing alongside will be G&S Company stalwarts, Oliver White (Nanki-Poo), Bruce Graham (Pooh Bah), Ian Belsey (Pish Tush) and other specialist G&S performers - Annette Wardell (Yum Yum) and Sylvia Clarke (Katisha).

The second new production for the 2012 Festival is HMS Pinafore. This will be directed by Cav. Vivien Coates who has delighted Buxton audiences with three award-winners from Festival Productions, Dublin, for which he received the “Best Director” award three years in a row – unprecedented in the history of the G&S Festival. In 2007, Vivien was awarded a knighthood and title of Cavaliere from the Italian President for his services in promoting Italian opera in Ireland. HMS Pinafore will feature Charlotte Page (Josephine), Simon Butteriss (Sir Joseph Porter) and Oliver White (Ralph).

Jeff Clarke, of Opera della Luna fame, directs the third Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company production of The Gondoliers, and audiences can be sure of a stylish interpretation of this popular opera. Donald Maxwell stars as Don Alhambra, Richard Gauntlett as the Duke of Plazatoro and Jill Pert as the Duchess of Plazatoro. The show also features Victoria Byron and Victoria Joyce.

Following last year’s outstanding production of the rarely performed Utopia Ltd, the Festival will feature the first fully-staged UK professional production of The Grand Duke since its original run in 1896! The Grand Duke was the final Savoy opera and Gilbert & Sullivan never worked together again. Directed by Andrew Nicklin, it will feature most of today’s leading Gilbert & Sullivan “stars” including Richard Suart, Richard Gauntlett, Donald Maxwell, Bruce Graham, Victoria Byron, Victoria Joyce and Jill Pert.

Ian Smith, Artistic Director of the Gilbert & Sullivan Festival, said: “We are truly proud of the reputation and wonderful entertainment our professional Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company provide. Every year they surpass our expectations and I certainly do not think you could find better G&S anywhere in the world. And our audiences simply love them!”

This year, the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company will perform 16 shows in Buxton Opera House between July 28 and August 18, before moving on to Harrogate Royal Hall with performances of The Mikado and HMS Pinafore as part of the new CLASSICfest taking place in the town between August 19 and August 27.

For a full Gilbert & Sullivan Festival line-up, visit www.gsfestivals.org. Tickets can be purchased from the Buxton Opera House Box Office on 0845 127 2190, or online at www.buxtonoperahouse.org.