All roads leading to Buxton’s festivals

Deborah Norman in action. Photo contributed.
Deborah Norman in action. Photo contributed.
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All roads leading to Buxton’s festivals

FESTIVAL time hits Buxton again next week with the Fringe Festival getting under way on Wednesday followed by the Buxton Festival proper next Saturday and, three days after the curtain comes down on that, it goes up again on July 30 on the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival.

This year’s G&S Festival has four productions from the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, including only the third-ever professional UK staging of Utopia Limited with Sheffield’s own Debbie Norman as Princess Zara and directed by Andrew Nicklin.

Also new are a Pirates of Penzance with a US director Gary Slavin and an Irish conductor Timothy Henty, a Ruddigore directed by Jeff Clarke, on non-Opera della Luna behaviour, whose much-acclaimed Yeoman of the Guard from last year is revived.

Cast principals are by and large the same in each show with Bruce Graham in all four, Jill Pert in three, Charlotte Page and Donald Maxwell in two, while anyone who saw Opera della Luna’s Sorcerer at the Lyceum recently (on during the festival) will know the names of Richard Gauntlett and Oliver White who each appear in three.

An OdL regular Simon Butteriss appears in two and the conductor, except for Pirates, is the much experienced and admirable John Owen Edwards. Butteriss also appears as John Wellington Wells in a Nomads production of The Sorcerer, the Dr Daly in it being OdL’s Ian Belsey.

A further professional offering is a triple bill of Trial By Jury, Cox and Box and The Zoo from Charles Court Opera.

Productions in the competitive element, the adjudicated amateur shows, are two of Iolanthe, The Mikado and Yeomen of the Guard, one from Andrew Nicklin’s Trent Opera, the other G&S Opera Victoria, Australia who are also bringing a staging of Lionel Monckton’s The Arcadians.

With Pinafore, Patience, Princess Ida (Derby G&S) and The Gondoliers also getting amateur performances, it means every work in the G&S canon, except the perennially friendless Grand Duke, gets at least one staging in this year’s festival.

Among much ‘fringe’ activity in the new Pavilion Arts Centre is the Australian Arcadians (on twice) and there are a number of Gilbert-related events, this year being the 100th anniversary of his death.

It is good year for golden ‘oldies’ with appearances by Gillian Knight who presents her desert island discs, Peggy Ann Jones and Michael Rayner in conversation and Valerie Masterson reminiscing with Thomas Round, who makes three appearances.

The heart-throb tenor of the late 1950s/ early 1960s and 96 this year, is still going strong if, inevitably, not feeling so following the death of his wife Alice six months ago on New Year’s Eve. They had been married for 72 years and known each other for 90.