Revealed: full details of new CLASSICfest

Trent Opera.
Trent Opera.

ORGANISERS have revealed the full programme for Harrogate’s new international festival of opera and operetta.

Running from Tuesday, August 21 to Bank Holiday Monday, August 27, CLASSICfest is being brought to Harrogate by the Yorkshire organisers of the highly successful International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, which this year will celebrate its 19th anniversary.

Festival director Ian Smith is thrilled and excited at the initial response to the Harrogate announcement.

He said: “Twenty years ago we had an idea to bring operetta and light opera to Harrogate along with Gilbert & Sullivan.

“ But at the time Harrogate was unable to accommodate our needs and the result was a stand-alone Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in Buxton which has, of course grown to be the most important G&S event worldwide.

“Now we have another opportunity to build CLASSICfest into a magical, international event in Harrogate.”

The organisers of CLASSICfest hope it will quickly establish itself as the major European Festival for all forms of musical theatre and other artistic ‘classics’ of the last 150 years.

Festival director Ian Smith said: “We have a fantastic programme for this first event with performances of Quaker Girl, Chess, Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus, A Little Night Music, HMS Pinafore and The Mikado.

“We will also celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with an extravaganza of the very best of English music in the auditorium of the Harrogate International Centre with a choir of 600 plus voices .

“A Festival Fringe is currently being finalised and will include an afternoon of Flanders and Swann and a visit from The Mousetrap Man – the artistic director of the world’s longest running play.

“We also plan a late night Festival Club with cabaret every evening in the Majestic Hotel.”

Harrogate Borough Council leader, Don Mackenzie, welcomed the securing of the new festival.

He said: “This is very good news, indeed, for Harrogate District, for our residents, especially those who love musical theatre, and also for all those businesses which rely on visitors coming to the district and spending money in our hotels, restaurants and shops.

“The opportunity to host the Festival passed us by 20 years ago. This time every effort was made at various levels - including at the political level, with Andrew Jones MP involved in early talks - to ensure that Mr Smith would bring part of his world-renowned festival to Harrogate in 2012, and those efforts will continue to make Harrogate its permanent home after that”.

The Festival Programme:

Tuesday, August 21:

The Festival will open in Harrogate Theatre with a performance of Quaker Girl presented by Northwest Productions.

A wonderful piece of Edwardian Musical Theatre, Lionel Monckton’s traditional production features a youthful and talented cast of over 40 members.

Wednesday, August 22:

Harrogate Theatre will see a performance of Chess by the hugely talented and award-winning Fusion Theatre Group from Northern Ireland.

Founded in 2000, as part of an effort to build bridges between young people from different political and religious backgrounds in the Lisburn area, Fusion Theatre has emerged as Northern Ireland’s premier youth theatre group.

Thursday, August 23 and Friday, August 24:

Trent Opera will present Franz Lehar’s delightful operetta, The Merry Widow at Harrogate Theatre.

Often called The Queen of Operettas, the melodies and songs - Vilja, The Merry Widow Waltz, You’ll Find Me At Maxim’s, to name but a few, are sung the whole world over.

Trent Opera has won many awards including the International Trophy at the G&S Festival in Buxton and first prize at the Waterford Festival in Ireland,.

For its second performance in Harrogate, it will perform of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music on August 24.

One of Broadway’s most neglected masterpieces, this romantic production deals with the universal subject of love, in all its wondrous, humorous and ironic permutations.

Saturday, August 25:

The Royal Hall will be the venue for Saturday’s entertainment when the highly acclaimed, professional Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company perform a brand new production of HMS Pinafore (matinee and evening performances).

Founded in 1995 to perform at the G&S Festival in Buxton, The Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company are renowned for producing the very best G&S seen anywhere in the world.

Sunday, August 26:

The 2,000-seat Harrogate International Centre Auditorium is a fitting venue for a Jubilee Choral Spectacular.

More than 600 jubilant voices will celebrate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. Their voices will raise the roof and pay homage to some of our best-loved English music and songs.

Backed by the acclaimed National Festival Orchestra and featuring stars from London’s West End and major British Opera companies, this really will be an afternoon to remember.

Please note, there is still space for any individuals or choirs who would like to take part.

Telephone 01422 323252 for more information.

Sunday, August 26:

There is another opportunity for participation when CLASSICfest offers a week-long performance masterclass which culminates in a fully staged production of Die Fledermaus presented in the Harrogate Theatre on the Sunday evening.

The show will be put together with a week of intensive rehearsals in Harrogate under the direction of award-winning international director, Alistair Donkin.

Auditions will take place in Harrogate on Saturday, April 28. Full details are available on 01422 323252.

Monday, August 27:

The Royal Hall plays host to the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company which will perform matinee and evening shows of another brand new production of The Mikado.

For more information, visit