The 30th International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival 2024

Buxton Opera House, Water Street, Buxton, SK17 6XN

When: 27th July – 10th August 2024

Public booking is now open, to book online go to:

T: Box office 01298 72190


The Gilbert & Sullivan Festival returned exclusively to Buxton with the full festival in 2023, after moving the festival to Harrogate in 2014. The annual Gilbert & Sullivan Festival is the biggest celebration of the Gilbert & Sullivan comic operas anywhere in the world and once again the festival includes a packed programme of performances and fringe events at Buxton Opera House and Pavilion Arts Centre.

There will be fully-staged performances running alongside a packed fringe programme with lectures, concerts, a memorabilia fair and more. Visitors can drop in for one show or immerse themselves in the festival and experience everything on offer.

Celebrating 30 years of the festival in 2024, The National G&S Opera Company productions will be The Gondoliers, HMS Pinafore & Trial By Jury and The Pirates of Penzance.

When did the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival begin?

The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival celebrates the timeless works of the renowned theatrical duo, W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. It all began at Buxton Opera House in 1994, founded by Ian Smith and his son Neil Smith. Judith Christian, General Manager of the opera house at the time, had a meeting with Ian and legend has it she ‘wasn’t going to let him leave the theatre without coming to an agreement for the proposed idea of a G&S festival’, the rest as they say, is history.

Buxton is said to be the festivals ‘spiritual home’ and in 2013 was moved Harrogate following difficulties with agreeing contracts; there the festival remained until 2022. In 2023 the entire festival programme returned to Buxton, much to the delight of audiences and the town of Buxton. The two-three week festival features G&S opera performances with the festivals own professional arm – The National G&S Opera Company, featuring favourite names such as Simon Buttriss, Bruce Graham and Richard Gauntlet to name a few. Amateur Gilbert and Sullivan performing societies from around the world perform on the Festival’s main stage each year. Youth productions also take place as well as packed fringe programme during the festival, with talks, lectures, a memorabilia fair, shorter recitals and more.

Who are Gilbert and Sullivan?

The Beginning of a Legendary Collaboration Gilbert and Sullivan, comprised of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, joined forces in 1871. While their debut work, “Thespis,” marked the start of their partnership, it was their second production, “Trial by Jury” (1875), that laid the foundation for their future success.

A Trailblazing Journey The duo’s breakthrough came with “H.M.S. Pinafore” (1878), catapulting them to international acclaim. Their comic operas, blending witty satire, captivating melodies, and clever wordplay, captured the hearts of audiences worldwide.

Masterpieces of Social Satire With Gilbert’s sharp, humorous writing and Sullivan’s melodic brilliance, they produced enduring classics like “The Pirates of Penzance” (1880), “Patience” (1881), and “The Mikado” (1885). Through their works, they fearlessly satirized Victorian society’s bureaucracy, politics, and class divisions.

The Mikado: A Global Sensation “The Mikado” became one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s crowning achievements. Set in a fictionalized Japan, the operetta allowed them to tackle sensitive issues while maintaining a safe distance from contemporary British society. Its enduring popularity made it one of the most frequently performed operas worldwide.

Strains and Reunion Tensions arose in the late 1880s, briefly leading to a split in their partnership. Both pursued individual projects, but eventually, they reunited to create “The Gondoliers” (1889), their last great success before the end of their collaboration with “Utopia, Limited” (1893) and “The Grand Duke” (1896).

A Lasting Legacy Gilbert and Sullivan’s impact extended beyond their lifetimes. Their works continue to be celebrated and performed globally, inspiring numerous adaptations and revivals. Their influence on musical theater endures, solidifying their position as icons of the genre. The timeless brilliance of their collaboration ensures that Gilbert and Sullivan’s legacy lives on, woven into the very fabric of theatrical history.


Bookings for all events are made via Buxton Opera House. Go to:

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