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The International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in Harrogate

England 4 nights Prices on request

The elegant Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate will host the 28th edition of its acclaimed festival which celebrates the works of the great English operatic partnership. Productions by international companies of many of Gilbert & Sullivan’s best-loved works are presented in Frank Matcham’s stunning Royal Hall. Our four-night holiday this summer will include four separate productions as part of the Festival, as well as a private talk given by one of the Festival’s trustees, Bernard Lockett, a passionate Gilbert & Sullivan expert who written several books on the subject, and broadcast on BBC Radio and TV. In addition, we will have time to explore Harrogate itself and visit the atmospheric ruins of nearby Fountains Abbey.

What's included

...when you travel with Kirker

  • Four nights' accommodation with breakfast
  • Four dinners
  • Tickets for performances as described
  • All sightseeing, entrance fees and gratuities as described
  • Services of the Kirker Tour Leader


  • Day 1 - Arrival & First Performance

    Make your own way to the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate. This grand Victorian building was completed in 1889 and sits within eight acres of landscaped gardens in the heart of Harrogate, less than a five-minute walk from the Royal Hall, the Festival venue. This evening, before the first performance, will have dinner together in the hotel’s restaurant.
  • Day 2 - Walking Tour & Talk by Bernard Lockett

    Today we will begin with a walking tour of the town centre including the magnificent Grade 1 listed Church of St Wilfrid, designed by Temple Moore and his son-in-law Leslie Moore. In the evening there will be a talk by Trustee of the Gilbert & Sullivan Festival Bernard Lockett, who will explain the enduring appeal of the duo and their place in English musical history.
  • Day 3 - Fountains Abbey

    This morning we will head out of town to the remarkable World Heritage Site of Fountains Abbey, the largest monastic ruins in the UK. We will explore the ruins of the Abbey as well as Fountains Hall and the adjacent Georgian water garden, Studley Royal, before returning to the hotel in the afternoon.
  • Day 4 - Day at leisure

    Today will be free to explore Harrogate at your leisure. You may wish to follow one of the excellent walking trails or seek out the network of plaques marking key historical sites and individuals from the town’s history. We will have a final dinner together this evening before the opera.
  • Day 5 - The tour ends

    The tour will conclude after breakfast this morning.

Departure Dates and Prices

Andrew Taylor

Andrew Taylor

Tour Leader

More Info

Music Programme

Monday 15 August at 19.30

The Pirates of Penzance

Brussels Light Opera Company
“Pirates” was premiered at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York City in December 1879, before reaching London in April 1880, where it enjoyed no less than 363 performances at the Opéra Comique. It has become one of the most popular Gilbert & Sullivan operas, famous in particular for its brilliant patter song, “I am the very model of a modern Major-General”. The story revolves around Frederic, who, at the age of 21 is released from his pirate apprenticeship before meeting and falling in love with Mabel. The problem, however, arises when he realises that his birthday of 29th of February (during a leap year) means he has to serve the pirates for another 63 years…

Tuesday 16 August at 19.30

Princess Ida

Bus Pass Opera
The second opera to premiere at the newly-built Savoy Theatre, in 1884, “Princess Ida” is based on Tennyson's poem “The Princess: A Medley”, and continued the ‘battle of the sexes’ theme seen in “Iolanthe”. The only Gilbert and Sullivan work with dialogue entirely in blank verse, it was initially a relative flop by the pair’s standards, but the music has since found great affection, in particular the "string of pearls” sequence of songs in Act 2.

Wednesday 17 August at 19.30

HMS Pinafore

National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company
Perhaps the most celebrated work in the G&S repertoire, “HMS Pinafore” (1878) is a brilliant satire on the British class system, and pokes good-natured fun at British politics and blind patriotism. It was the duo’s first international success with the Captain’s catchphrase “What never? Well, hardly ever!” sweeping both Britain and America. This production will be conducted by John Andrews whose career has taken him to The Grange Festival, Opera Holland Park, English Touring Opera, Garsington Opera, Opera de Baugé, the Volkstheater Rostock, and most recently to the Buxton International Festival in 2021.

Thursday 18 August at 19.30

The Grand Duke

Also known as “The Statutory Duel”, “The Grand Duke” was the final opera written by Gilbert & Sullivan, after which they never worked together again. It was premiered at the Savoy Theatre on 7 March 1896 but ran for a relatively small 123 performances, but has since been celebrated for its hilarious and satirical libretto and some of Sullivan’s most colourful music, including his quite brilliant parodies of Viennese waltzes. Set in the fictional Grand Duchy of Pfennig-Halbpfennig in 1750, the plot returns to the theme of their very first collaboration “Thespis”, in which a group of actors seizes power. And it’s surely the only opera to feature sausage rolls…

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