Gilbert and Sullivan are still going strong after a century

THE International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival hits Buxton for the 15th time this Saturday and, for 22 days, the atmosphere will be tangible and inescapable throughout the High Peak town.

Folk from across the UK and the world will live, breathe, eat and sleep G&S, many for the duration. They are already there or on their way, a large number from America.

There are not quite as many from elsewhere perhaps, but from all points of the globe nevertheless.

Josephine in the Festival Production, this year HMS Pinafore, for instance, is from Sao Paulo in Brazil. There is a Japanese Cox and Box, a Mikado sung in Hungarian, the apparent novelty compounded by the characters being puppets.

Make no mistake about it, Sullivan might have died in 1900, Gilbert 11 years later, and it may be over 100 years since their works first saw the light of day, but both are alive and kicking!

The evidence is worldwide, no matter what people tell you verbally or in print to the contrary,

All the G&S opera canon, except the two usually missing, Utopia Ltd and the ultra-friendless Grand Duke, get at least one staged performance at the Opera House.

The Pirates of Penzance is the most popular show this time round. Leaving aside The Parson's Pirates from Opera della Luna for a moment, there are three productions of it, including one from young Sheffield baritone John Savournin's Charles Court Opera on August 17.

A professional performance, John (Pirate King and director) gets into the Opera House for the first time with it and two major guest appearances, Richard Suart as Major General Stanley and Jill Pert as Ruth.

The other two productions of Pirates are mounted by the Philadelphia Gilbert and Sullivan Union and Festival Productions, Ireland who monopolised last year's awards, including winning show.

They fall within amateur realms, as do two productions which are bound to have people known in Sheffield involved, not least the person directing them, Andrew Nicklin, The Sorcerer from Trent Opera (August 12) and Yeomen of the Guard from Derby Gilbert and Sullivan Company (August 20).

As always, the amateur stagings (10 this year), usually of high quality, are adjudicated – Gillian Humphreys returns as adjudicator – with awards presented on the last day of the festival, August 23.

This Sunday, Richard Suart should be the vicar of St Michael's-under-Ware in Opera della Luna's hilarious take on Pirates of Penzance, The Parson's Pirates, and another leading UK patter man Simon Butteriss will doubtless repeat his camp Sir Joseph Porter in the company's wacky HMS Pinafore later in the day.

Both are in the casts for three Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company productions, the former The Gondoliers, the latter The Mikado (next Fiday, Saturday) and Iolanthe.

Jill Pert is in all three and other cast members include Donald Maxwell (Mikado, Mountaratat), Bruce Graham (Pooh-Bah), Charlotte Page (Yum-Yum), seen recently in the part with Carl Rosa Opera at the Lyceum and the Pooh-Bah in it, Gareth Jones (Don Alhambra, Private Willis).

Andrew Nicklin directs The Mikado and Richard Balcombe conducts, the more familiar duo of Alan Spencer and John Owen Edwards fulfilling the respective duties in the other two.

Simon Butteriss is also the Leaned Judge in a celebrity Trial by Jury which shares a double bill with the early Sullivan-without-Gilbert Cox and Box from the Tokyo Theatre Company on Tuesday.

Three other non-Gilbert works by Sullivan (non-adjudicated amateur renderings) are heard in the Paxton Suite, or theatre as the organisers would have it.

His last completed work The Rose of Persia is next Friday in a concert performance with piano directed by American soprano Elise Curran with a cast of other festival regulars and, two days later Northampton a la Carte offer The Contrabandista and The Foresters.

The latter is incidental music to a play by Tennyson based on the Robin Hood story.

Speaking of indestructible legends, the nearly 93-year-young Thomas Round presents a nostalgia-riddled Gilbert and Sullivan For All afternoon this Saturday with guests Valerie Masterson and Gillian Knight who appeared with the hugely-popular Round/ Donald Adams-run globetrotting company.

Tom has a futher date in the festival talking about himself, Valerie recalls operatic heroines on Monday morning and, 24 hours earlier, this Sunday, Gillian is the first of more castaways on a mythical desert island with eight discs.

Others marooned are Charlotte Page (Tuesday), Richard Suart, Simon Butteriss, John Ayldon, principal bass of the original D'Oyly Carte Opera Company from 1969 until its closure in 1982, and Stephen Turnbull, secretary of the Sullivan Society..