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The Belles of Buxton

July 31 to August 22 2004, thousands of Gilbert and Sullivan (G&S) devotees will descend upon the little town of Buxton from all over the world for the 11th annual International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival. A wide variety of activities from costume parades and sing-alongs to panel discussions accompany the numerous professional and amateur productions that range from the traditional to the avante guard. Amateur groups and individuals compete in the International competition while cabarets and Pot Luck performances round out the evenings. This year, Thomas Round and Valerie Masterson share their memories as D’Oyly Carte cast members and as lifetime performers in special presentations.

Buxton’s Opera House

Quintessentially British in nature, groups and individuals such as the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players (NYGASP) from America and The Jerusalem Gilbert & Sullivan Society from Israel join British companies such as the G & S Opera Society in presenting their productions from the G&S canon. The operettas, which originally poked fun at the political realities in Great Britain at the time, continue to strike a chord in the hearts of modern audiences. G&S works have been translated into every major language including Yiddish. Why does the work of William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan hold such International appeal over 120 years later?According to American soprano and recording artist Arianna, “The works of Gilbert and Sullivan are highly intelligent, witty, classy–and a whole lot of fun! I made my professional debut as Mabel in the Pirates of Penzance when I was just 16 years old and I’ve been hooked ever since.” An accomplished international singer and actress who regularly sings up to a G above high C in her concerts, Arianna will play a prominent role in this year’s festival after concerts in Milan and Los Angeles.

Trio at the Opera House

“There are a lot of people who appreciate great music and great singing and a funny, intelligent story. That’s Gilbert and Sullivan!” she explains.

Opening day (Saturday July 31st) kicks off the festival with a large costume parade of performers, society groups, and attendees dressed as their favorite G&S characters or in period clothing. From noon to 2:00 pm the costumed carolers sing excerpts from the shows at prominent sites around the town of Buxton. A costume parade will precede a “Big Sing“ concert in the town Octagon.

As the curtain drops each night in the Opera House, the Festival Club swings into action next door in the Pavilion Gardens complex. The first cabaret starts 20 minutes after the curtain drops and adjudication begins. A brief supper break allows the performing groups time to clear the theatre, pack their costumes and enjoy a well-earned drink themselves before presenting their own cabaret starting around 11:15 pm. The cabarets were a big hit last year and a good time is had by all.The beautiful Buxton Opera House is the focal point for the festival’s activities. According to festival founder and director Ian Smith, “Each festival brings the challenge of finding something fresh, new and even more entertaining than the previous year but I believe we have managed it. New York G&S Players are coming to us straight off Broadway following an extremely successful tour of the East coast, mid-West and Southern states, while the Houston G&S Society will be making its third visit to Buxton.

Duo near the Opera House

Interest from amateur companies wanting to perform just continues to grow and, sadly, we have not been able to accommodate them all. With more fringe events than ever before, Buxton will once again be overflowing with G&S fans this summer and that’s got to be good for the town and its business people.”

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