National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company

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National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company poster

The National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company (formerly the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company) is an English professional repertory company that performs Gilbert and Sullivan's Savoy operas. Founded in 1995 to perform at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, the company generally stages three or four productions each summer, giving up to 16 performances in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, and also touring.

The company performs full-scale productions of the Gilbert and Sullivan works, with orchestra, using period settings and costumes. Since 2010, in addition to its performances at the festival, the company has generally performed one or more of its productions in an additional venue either before or after the festival. Since 2014, it has toured some of its productions to multiple British cities in repertory, giving up to 42 performances on tour.


The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company performed Gilbert and Sullivan's Savoy Operas continuously, year-round, for over a century, closing in 1982.[1][2] Until the Gilbert and Sullivan copyrights expired in 1961, no other professional theatre or opera companies were allowed to present the Savoy Operas in Britain, although professional companies performed the operas in North America, Australia and elsewhere, and numerous amateur Gilbert and Sullivan companies performed around the world. After 1961 other professional groups began to perform the operas in Britain.[3][4]

In 1994, the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival was founded by Ian and his son Neil Smith partly to fill the gap left by the closure of D'Oyly Carte, and it has been held every August since then in England.[5][6][7] On weeknights, the festival features a competition among amateur companies from all over the world.[8][9] On weekends, however, the festival offers professional performances given by companies such as the Carl Rosa Opera Company, Opera della Luna,[7][10] the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players,[11] Charles Court Opera, and the festival's own National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company.[9]

History and description[edit]

Productions at the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival[edit]

In 1995, the operators of the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival formed an opera company to provide festivalgoers with professional productions of the Savoy operas.[12] The company was soon called the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company. It engaged such performers as Richard Suart, Simon Butteriss, Bruce Graham, Gillian Knight, Barry Clark, Michael Rayner, Jill Pert, Gareth Jones,[10] Patricia Leonard, Donald Maxwell, Oliver White, Rebecca Bottone, Ian Belsey and the Opera Babes. John Owen Edwards, David Russell Hulme, David Steadman or Andrew Nicklin have usually served as music directors for the company.[5][6][13] In 2014, the festival registered the company with Companies House as the National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company.[14]

The company's performances are accompanied by the festival's National Festival Orchestra.[11] It generally presents four productions each year at the festival, and the festival sells videos of most of its productions.[15][16] In 2018, in connection with the 25th anniversary of the International G&S Festival, the company is presenting six productions in Harrogate, Buxton and on tour.[17]

The Royal Hall, Harrogate, hosts the company's performances at the festival from 2014.

Uniquely among professional companies in Britain, other than D'Oyly Carte, the National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company has presented all 13 of the extant Savoy Operas.[15] The company first performed Utopia, Limited in 2011, an opera that has rarely been given a professional staging in Britain over the past century.[18] In 2012 the company mounted the first full-scale professional production of The Grand Duke in Britain since the 19th century,[19] which was one of its four productions that year.[20] Since 2013, the company has given up to 16 performances over the course of the festival at its new home in Harrogate, England.[21][22] In 2018, the company presented the first professional, fully staged production of Haddon Hall since the 19th century.[23]

Performances outside the festival[edit]

In August and September 2010, the G&S Opera Company presented its first production outside of the festival, The Yeomen of the Guard, at Oxford Castle.[24][25] Two of its 2012 productions were repeated in Harrogate late in August,[26] and all three of its 2013 productions transferred there in late August.[27] The company toured three of its 2014 productions in repertory from June to August 2014, giving seven performances in each of six cities.[28][29] Since 2015, besides Harrogate, the company has toured its productions to several cities and towns in the UK,[30][31] including the Festival's previous home, Buxton.[32]


Sky Arts called the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company's performers "some of the UK's finest exponents of musical theatre".[9] The Mail Online gave the company's The Mikado four stars.[33] A review of the company's 2010 production of Iolanthe, noted, "The music was up to [the festival's] usual high standard, with the orchestra ... giving a superb and sprightly reading of the Overture and score throughout."[34][35] Another reviewer of that production commented: With a reputation for strong casts [and] energetic delivery, traditionally fresh interpretations are brought to [the] roles. ... Care is always taken with the staging and lighting of these ... productions and, as with Princess Ida last year, they can match a West End show. ... Throughout, the chorus was outstanding.[34] The Daily Telegraph "thoroughly enjoyed [the company's] spirited production" of Utopia, Limited in 2011.[18] A reviewer said of their 2013 production of Princess Ida, "the performance sparkled; singing, acting, costumes, dramatic flow and orchestral playing were all splendid".[36]

A review of the company's 2014 tour praised the direction, choreography and conducting of The Pirates of Penzance and continued: "They are a real find with strong production values, a great orchestra and first class singing. ... It all looks marvellous with picture book settings and eye catching costumes plus a full and energetic cast. ... The chorus work is top notch, and they all come across as individuals."[37] The Birmingham Mail liked the cast, costumes and "infectious" humour of the company's Iolanthe[38] and called its production of The Mikado "superb", praising the principal cast, chorus and orchestra, but was disappointed in "the decision to make the Mikado ... a fun figure rather than a scary ruler."[39] The company's Iolanthe made a Gilbert and Sullivan fan out of a sceptical reviewer.[40] The Daily Express reviewer said that the company provided "glorious musical entertainment",[41] and the Daily Mail gave the company five stars.[42] The Northern Echo reviewed the 2015 tour, stating: "This company is so polished, so well-versed in the eccentricities of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, with excellent singing voices coupled with clear diction ... and comedic skill. ... [A] tuneful, jolly, laugh-out-loud evening’s entertainment.[43] The Manchester Evening News gave the company four out of five stars, admiring its musical and comic polish, dancing and "magnificent" chorus.[32]

In 2017, a reviewer praised the principals and chorus of the company's Mikado production, commenting: "This is giggle-making, girth-busting comic opera at it's very best. Sensational singing with sumptuous scenery."[44] A review of their Princess Ida was likewise effusive.[45]


Recordings of the company's productions are sold by the Festival on DVD.[46] Some of the productions are also available on CD.[47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bradley, pp. 49–50; Joseph, p. 358. Between 1988 and 2003, a seasonal company used the name D'Oyly Carte. See Bradley, pp. 54–68
  2. ^ Skow, John. 1982 "Music: Final Curtain for D'Oyly Carte". Time magazine, 8 March 1982, accessed 7 July 2010
  3. ^ Bradley, chapters four and six
  4. ^ Hewett, Ivan. "The Magic of Gilbert and Sullivan". The Telegraph, 2 August 2009, accessed 14 April 2010.
  5. ^ a b Lee, Bernard. "Gilbert and Sullivan are still going strong after a century", Sheffield Telegraph, 1 August 2008
  6. ^ a b Festival history pages
  7. ^ a b Sandham, David. "Buxton Festivals". Buxton Festivals website with links to photos and reviews of each festival, accessed 19 September 2010
  8. ^ Beale, Robert. "Blow me down! Gilbert & Sullivan bows out of Buxton", Manchester Evening News, 26 July 2013
  9. ^ a b c "Sky arts at the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival"[permanent dead link]. Sky Arts, British Sky Broadcasting, accessed 13 August 2010
  10. ^ a b Bradley, p. 193
  11. ^ a b Chalmers, Graham. "Harrogate wins topsy-turvy battle over G&S Festival", Wetherby News, 5 June 2014; and Hutchinson, Charles. "Gilbert and Sullivan festival in Harrogate, August 2 to 26", The Press, 9 January 2014
  12. ^ Spencer, Ted. "The Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company (UK)",, accessed 8 June 2014
  13. ^ Cockroft, Robert. "Review: International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival", Yorkshire Post, 14 August 2009
  14. ^ Company No. 09297497 filed with Companies House on 5 November 2014. See also: Announcement of name change, International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival, 11 November 2014
  15. ^ a b "Professional Shows from the Festival" Archived 18 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine., International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, accessed 13 June 2014
  16. ^ "Theatre: Gilbert & Sullivan heading to Harrogate and Newcastle", The Northern Echo, 1 June 2017
  17. ^ Smith, Ian. "What's On Guide 2018", The International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival, accessed 2 July 2018; and " Feast of G and S is heading your way as festival returns", Buxton Advertiser, 23 June 2018
  18. ^ a b Christiansen, Rupert. "Utopia Ltd, Opera House", The Telegraph, 22 August 2011, accessed 17 February 2012
  19. ^ "G&S Co take Festival Lead", Buxton Advertiser, 21 July 2012
  20. ^ "2012 G&S Opera Company Boxed Set", International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, accessed 13 June 2014
  21. ^ Dreyer, Martin. "Review: National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company in The Sorcerer and The Yeomen of the Guard, Royal Hall, Harrogate, August 12 and 13", The Press, 17 August 2016; and "Theatre: Gilbert & Sullivan heading to Harrogate and Newcastle", The Northern Echo, 1 June 2017
  22. ^ Wilkinson, Sue. [ "Facts and figures of Harrogate’s G&S Festival", Harrogate Advertiser, 26 March 2018
  23. ^ Walker, Ramond J. "Haddon Hall is a Grundy and Sullivan Rarity", Seen and Heard International, 4 August 2018; and Hall, George. "Haddon Hall review at Royal Hall, Harrogate – 'rare resuscitation of Arthur Sullivan's pedestrian work'", The Stage, 21 August 2018
  24. ^ Lisle, Nicola. "Yeomen of the Guard: Oxford Castle". The Oxford Times, 19 August 2010, accessed 13 June 2014
  25. ^ Christiansen, Rupert. "The Yeoman of the Guard, Oxford Castle, review". The Telegraph, 2 September 2010
  26. ^ "ClassicFest, Royal Hall, Harrogate, August 21 to 27", The Press, 20 July 2012
  27. ^ "ClassicFest, Royal Hall and Harrogate Theatre, August 18 to 31", The Press, 1 August 2013
  28. ^ Potter, Tully. "Iolanthe: Poking fun at the peers, G&S style", Daily Mail, 9 August 2013
  29. ^ Smith, Ian. "G&S Opera Co on Tour" Archived 3 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine., The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, accessed 8 June 2014
  30. ^ Bratby, Richard. "HMS Pinafore, National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company", The Arts Desk, 10 August 2015; Bratby, Richard. "The Yeomen of the Guard, National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company",, 2 August 2016; and Bratby, Richard. "Princess Ida, National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company review – sparkling comedy, wobbly sets",, 1 September 2017
  31. ^ "2017 Tour Dates" Archived 24 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine., International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, accessed 15 May 2017
  32. ^ a b Beale, Robert. "The Gondoliers at Buxton Opera House review", Manchester Evening News, 7 August 2015
  33. ^ Gore-langton, Robert. "Yum-yum, a Mikado that's utterly delicious". Mail Online, 20 August 2010
  34. ^ a b Walker, Raymond J. "Buxton International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival 2010 - Iolanthe". Seen and Heard International, MusicWeb International, accessed 6 August 2010
  35. ^ "2010 G&S Opera Company Boxed Set", International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, accessed 13 June 2014
  36. ^ King, Andrew H. "Buxton Gilbert and Sullivan Festival's remarkable Princess Ida",, 22 August 2013, accessed 28 June 2014
  37. ^ Key, Philip. "Review: The Pirates of Penzance at the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton", Liverpool Echo, 11 June 2014; another review gave the production five stars. Marston, Paul. "Review: The Pirates of Penzance at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre", Birmingham Mail, 25 June 2014
  38. ^ Marston, Paul. "Review: Iolanthe at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre", Birmingham Mail, 27 June 2014
  39. ^ Marston, Paul. "Review: The Mikado at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre", Birmingham Mail, 30 June 2014
  40. ^ "Review of Iolanthe – Darlington Civic Theatre", Teesdale Mercury, 1 July 2014
  41. ^ Hartston, William. "The Mikado and HMS Pinafore opera reviews: Polished, zany and 'deliciously camp'", Daily Express, 8 August 2014
  42. ^ Potter, Tully. "Hurrah for the fun and frivolous English", The Daily Mail, 8 August 2014
  43. ^ Heath, Sue. "The Mikado, Darlington Civic Theatre", The Northern Echo, 16 September 2015
  44. ^ Thomas, Paul. "The Mikado at Windsor – a 'yum-yum' of an operatta", Local Berkshire, Newsquest Media Group, 21 July 2017
  45. ^ Mogridge, Geoffrey. "Review: The National Gilbert & Sullivan Company's Princess Ida, Royal Hall, Harrogate: Saturday, August 12, 2017", Ilkley Gazette, 15 August 2017
  46. ^ Recordings available on DVD Archived 18 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine., International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, accessed 13 June 2014
  47. ^ Recordings available on CD Archived 18 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine., International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, accessed 26 June 2014


  • Bradley, Ian (2005). Oh Joy! Oh Rapture! The Enduring Phenomenon of Gilbert and Sullivan. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516700-7.
  • Joseph, Tony (1994). D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, 1875–1982: An Unofficial History. London: Bunthorne Books. ISBN 0-9507992-1-1

External links[edit]