THE 21st anniversary of the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival will be celebrated with 60 full-scale G&S productions in 25 days in Harrogate this summer.

The opera programme in the Royal Hall and Harrogate Theatre from August 2 to 26 will be complemented by almost 100 Fringe events.

“Nowhere in the world is there such an ambitious programme,” reckons organiser Bernard Lockett. “Performing groups get into the Royal Hall at nine in the morning. They have to set up lights and scenery; dress rehearse their show with the National Festival Orchestra; perform and then, like Cinderella, they have to vacate the premises lock, stock, scenery and costumes before midnight in anticipation of the next group moving in the following morning.”

Highlights will include 23 performances by the festival’s own professional company, the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, presenting new productions of The Mikado, The Pirates Of Penzance, HMS Pinafore and Iolanthe.

The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players will provide an American take on The Yeomen Of The Guard and The Pirates Of Penzance, while 12 groups from Britain and the United States will compete for the festival’s International Trophy.

Seven British university groups will stage Gilbert and Sullivan productions in a UNIFest competition in Harrogate Theatre. Last year’s winners, Cambridge University Gilbert and Sullivan Society, will be joined by American enthusiasts from Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology for productions at the Royal Hall.

A special performance of Ruddigore will be mounted by the Over 60s Savoyards, a group of experienced amateur and professional performers, on the Royal Hall stage.

Among the festival’s other groups will be Harrogate Gilbert & Sullivan Society; Plymouth G&S Fellowship; Trent Opera; Peak Opera; South Anglia Savoy Players; SavoyNet Performing Group; Grosvenor Light Opera Company; Red Line G&S Opera Company; the WWOS musical theatre company and Godalming Operatic Society.

The festival dates coincide with the centenary of Britain joining the Great War, and two major commemorative concerts will take place at Newby Hall, near Ripon, on August 3 and the Valley Gardens, Harrogate, on August 16.

A mini Sullivan Festival of Arthur Sullivan without WS Gilbert will involve a concert in Ripon Cathedral, a symphony concert in Harrogate Theatre and workshops run by a Sullivan enthusiast from Russia. Meanwhile, a Gilbert without Sullivan mini-festival will feature rarely performed plays written by Gilbert before he met Sullivan.

A Pirates Of Penzance sing-along will be held at Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, and an HMS Pinafore sing-along in the Valley Gardens.

G&S enthusiasts will attempt to beat a world record by performing all 13 of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas non-stop, with dialogue and orchestra, in 13 different colourful locations in North Yorkshire in under 30 hours.

A Strictly Singing competition will look for tomorrow’s stars of opera, musical theatre and Gilbert and Sullivan in a talent showcase hosted by British opera and musical stars Valerie Masterson and Gillian Humphreys.

Lunchtime concerts, ad-hoc performances around North Yorkshire, the Fringe programme and the Late Night Festival Club will add to the variety of a festival that attracts visitors from around the world.

Away from Gilbert and Sullivan, Heritage Opera will present Puccini’s Tosca at Fountains Abbey and Harrogate Theatre.

For details of the full programme, performance times and bookings, visit