In the morning, we went to a talk by Scott Hayes, Sullivan's great great nephew, about letters which Sullivan sent to various members of his family. They ranged from ones sent to his father at age 12 up until not long before his death. Although Sullivan never married and had no children of his own, he was very involved with his brother Frederic's family. Frederic died quite young in 1877, and Sullivan took on a lot of the responsibilty for providing practical and financial support to his 7 surviving children. Sullivan comes across as an appreciative and considerate son, and a generous, fun-loving uncle who was keen to maintain harmony within the family.
The afternoon performance was the youth production of Pirates at the Harrogate Theatre. The cast was made up of youngsters between the ages of 9 and 19 who had been rehearsing together for about a week. It was a traditional production, with some nice humorous touches (for instance, one of the younger daughters came onto the stage carrying some climbing gear during 'Climbing over rocky mountain').
Ruth, the Pirate King and Mabel were all confident performers, with Frederic well on the way to being so. Ruth sang well, and her acting and facial expressions were a joy to watch. The Pirate King had plenty of character and a very pleasant voice which will doubtless increase in fullness as time goes on. His interactions with Samuel were very entertaining. Mabel's singing was extremely good, but she had so much more projection than any other member of the cast that the overall sound felt a bit out of balance at times.
For me, the absolute highlights of the show were the Paradox scene (great choreography, executed with style and confidence), and 'Ah leave me not to pine...', which was extremely moving - you could have heard a pin drop at the end of it, as the audience seemed to be holding its collective breath before bursting into what I'm sure would have been rapturous applause if we hadn't had to cut it short because the action on stage had started again.
And this brings me on to a recurring problem throughout this performance - not leaving enough space for the applause (of which there was plenty!) to die down before someone started speaking or singing again. I guess this is the one thing you can't really get a feel for in rehearsal.
This being a youth production (with some very young cast members) the chorus was inevitably quieter than usual, and this was compounded by the relatively small numbers. This was particularly evident in the final showdown between police and pirates. It would be great to see more young people getting involved next year!
In the evening, we went to the National G&S Opera Company's Patience - our second 'first' of the festival. (We saw The Sorcerer, entertainingly performed by Bus Pass Opera, for the first time earlier in the week). I instantly fell in love with the overture, which was a promising omen of good things to come. The production was full of larger-than-life characters, colourful costumes, great singing, and a special mention for the excellent lighting. Movement and static poses both seemed to play a major part, from the (intentionally!) overdramatic wafting of the lovesick maidens, to Bunthorne and Archibald's posing, and the officers' bumbling attempts at aestheticism. The chorus were top-notch, and several of them subsequently entertained us in the cabaret in the Utopia Pavilion.