Join in feast of witty, silly lines at Gilbert & Sullivan Festival

The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival  in Harrogate.
The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Harrogate.

Don’t drop your G&T but G&S is in town this weekend!

Harrogate has many claims to fame but, thanks to the organisers’ decision to desert its original homebase of Buxton two years ago, our town is now the home of the world’s greatest international Gilbert & Sullivan Festival!

Saturday signals the start of three weeks of general giddiness and there’s even a special service from London for operetta lovers.

Running from Saturday for a scarlett and taffeta-packed three weeks, the world’s biggest feast of events celebrating the comic operettas of the famous theatrical operatic partnership won’t be everybody’s cup of tea.

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 may even have heard G&S fans being described in less than flattering terms in a recent programme.

But it’s hard to argue with the enduring world-wide popularity of exhuberant and wittily satirical shows first performed more than 100 years ago such as H.M.S. Pinafore, Patience, Iolanthe, The Yeomen of the Guard, The Gondoliers, Ruddigore and more.

Some may regard it all as a bit bonkers but this sprawling musical jamboree centred on Harrogate’s Royal Hall is certainly one of the few remaining public symobls of old-fashioned British patriotism - and it’s a lot of fun.

Which other festival, afterall, would organise its own train service to transport fans from the south then back home again in a day to see a single show?

The International G&S Festival does not do things by halves and this Saturday will see UK Rail Tours running a train from London at 9.30am, arriving in Harrogate at 12.30pm, in good time for its passengers to enjoy the matinee performance of opening show The Gondoliers before being whisked back home at 5.45pm - approximately.

Every reader may not be the “very model of a modern Major-General and know the kings of England, quoting the fights historical” but it’s hard not to be impressed by that sort of fanaticism.

The Harrogate Advertiser Series is joining in the fun by inviting readers to post the best Gilbert and Sullivan-related puns or wordplay on song lyrics - all in the spirit of librettist W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900). Please see below for details.

Be assured we’re not trying to take the Mikado (!) and we will ignore the remark this week from Stray FM’s Alex B Cann who tweeted us that he preferred G & T to G &S!

As has been the case for the past 22 years since the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival was first launched, the festival’s extensive programme has something for everyone.

Pride of place goes to the internationally-renowned Charles Court Opera with their new production of Ruddigore.

But this year’s International G&S Festival also features a whole host of professional shows and expert talks - topped off with a contest to win the “International Champion” award which will feature about a dozen amateur Gilbert and Sullivan societies from around the world compete on the Festival’s main stage.

And there’s also four productions by the festival’s homegrown National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company who first made their reputation at the event’s original home of Buxton in Derbyshire, which it left only two years ago in some controversy, a move which G & S themselves might have thought suitable material for an opera.

Food and drink is available most nights until midnight in the ‘Utopia Pavilion’ at the Royal Hall.

The entertainment is being spread across the district this year with events in Ripon, Richmond and Skipton.

The Harrogate Advertiser Series is joining in the fun by inviting readers to post the best Gilbert and Sullivan-related puns or wordplay on song lyrics - all in the spirit of librettist W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900).

Be assured we’re not trying to take the Mikado (!) and we will ignore the remark this week from Stray FM’s Alex B Cann who tweeted us that he preferred G & T to G &S!

So, don’t upset the apple cart, be nice to the D’Oyly Carte!

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