From the high seas to the courtroom: State Opera South Australia celebrates Gilbert & Sullivan

This Wednesday is International Gilbert & Sullivan Day and is the perfect precursor for State Opera South Australia's G&S FEST - a 10-day festival celebrating Gilbert & Sullivan's comic operas.

This Wednesday 3 May marks International Gilbert & Sullivan Day—an occasion to celebrate the founding fathers of British comedy-opera, W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. This year, it also serves as a perfect precursor ahead of State Opera South Australia’s G&S FEST, which kicks off at iconic locations across the Adelaide CBD from 11-21 May 2023.

With some shows already sold out, the 10-day festival’s major highlights include crowd favourites H.M.S. Pinafore and Pirates of Penzance at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

A quintessential story of star-crossed lovers with a nautical tinge, the wildly popular H.M.S. Pinafore operetta has delighted audiences for 145 years. State Opera’s glorious cast features Nicholas Jones and Jessica Dean as the high-seas sweethearts, Jeremy Kleeman as the hapless Captain Corcoran, Ben Mingay as Sir Joseph Porter and Antoinette Halloran as Little Buttercup, alongside the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Pratt.

The story of a roguish pirate king and his adventurous young charge exploring the coastline in search of treasure and romance, The Pirates of Penzance is one of the most popular operettas ever written. Ben Mingay’s swashbuckling Pirate King leads a stellar cast, including John Longmuir, Desiree Frahn, Douglas McNicol and Antoinette Halloran. Anthony Hunt leads the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in one of Sullivan‘s most boisterous, tuneful scores.

Earlier G&S collaboration The Sorcerer hasn’t graced Adelaide stages since the 80’s. When young Alexis hires a sorcerer to spike the tea at his engagement party with a love potion, the result is madcap story full of magical mix-ups. This one-night-only quirky community version will be performed at Her Majesty’s Theatre and rehearsals are underway for more than 150 G&S enthusiasts and community choirs, that will be joined on stage by professional soloists such as Jeremy Tatchell, John Longmuir, Aidan Hodder and Cherie Boogaart.

Other must-see shows include: a G&S themed High tea, Mad Songs of Englishmen, the perfect Mother’s Day event hosted by Stuart Maunder himself; Sullivan in Love, an afternoon recital full of love songs; exclusive movie screenings at the beautifully redeveloped Piccadilly Cinema; a quiz night; and a Lads & Lasses Long Lunch, hosted by Jane Doyle, where some of Australia’s most beloved G&S stars of all time will be sharing behind the scenes stories, anecdotes and a delicious meal.

The Limestone Coast will also get to experience a quirky, madcap and sentimental journey through the songs and times of G&S in a one-off performance of Here’s a How-de-do, as part of the Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival.

The Tra La La Bar, an ad-hoc space located in the U City building just around the corner from Her Majesty’s Theatre will host many free events, including a piano bar and intriguing pre-performance talks.

Sacred Sullivan (a special Evensong held at St Peter’s Cathedral) and the quirky immersive presentation of Trial By Jury held at the Supreme and District Court Rooms are already sold out.

Seasoned G&S enthusiasts and new generations of fans alike will appreciate State Opera Artistic Director Stuart Maunder AM’s interpretation of these 19th century classics. Audiences will be treated to a night of two of mankind’s greatest pleasures—satire and silliness. Maunder first discovered Gilbert & Sullivan when he was 16 years old rehearsing a high school production. “Gilbert and Sullivan created 14 comic operas that endure to this day. Their staying power is extraordinary but not unexplainable. Gilbert’s dramatic situations – hinging on plot devices such as babies swapped at birth or ridiculous legal technicalities – are still funny,” he said.

Gilbert & Sullivan gave rise to a great tradition of political satire, and their work shaped the development of musical theatre, political discourse, literature, film and advertising. The international day of celebration on 3 May brings together aficionados and societies from around the world, as they share performances and toast champagne to the legends of British comic opera. The auspicious date is a nod to the birthdate of theatre impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte, who was responsible for not only bringing Gilbert and Sullivan together but producing their works in his theatres.

G&S FEST tickets are selling fast!


11-21 May 2023

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