Carl Rosa Opera Company has announced a new major national tour of a season of three Gilbert & Sullivan operettas: 1888’s The Yeomen of the Guard, 1882’s Iolanthe and a new production of 1881’s Patience, playing in rep. This is the first time a repertoire of Gilbert and Sullivan productions has toured the UK since the days of D’Oyly Carte.

The repertory season opens on 3 September 2007 at Bath’s Theatre Royal before continuing its three-month tour to six further venues. In addition, the company’s acclaimed production of G&S’s 1879 classic The Pirates of Penzance will return for two weeks at the Theatre Royal Plymouth (11 to 15 September) and the Theatre Royal Brighton (9 to 13 October) only.

Since the demise of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company in 2003, the Carl Rosa Opera Company has become the UK’s oldest and only professional touring G&S company. It employs 65 musicians, singers and technicians, presenting traditional productions with a fresh approach and without the aid of sponsorship or public subsidy.

The company was established in 1873, closing in 1960 before being relaunched in 1998 by artistic director Peter Mulloy and musical director Wyn Davies. The company’s mission statement reads: “Carl Rosa's aim is to bridge the perceived gap between traditional Grand Opera and popular music, whilst pursuing new styles and openness in policy of innovation and access to new and established audiences.”

(By comparison, the original D’Oyly Carte was founded, by impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte, circa 1875 to present new works by G&S at London’s Savoy Theatre and elsewhere. After closing in 1982, it reformed in 1988 but was again disbanded in 2003.)

Opening the Carl Rosa season tour at Bath, The Yeomen of the Guard, directed by Michael McCaffrey, tells the story of ill-fated love, intrigue and escape in Tudor England. Iolanthe (pictured), directed by Peter Mulloy, is an enduring fantasy on the class and political system.

The first performance of the new production of Patience, also directed by Mulloy, takes place on 6 October 2007 at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, before joining the other two operettas on tour. In the satire on Oscar Wilde and the aesthetes, a pretentious poet seduces a bevy of country girls away from their army sweet hearts, although he really fancies the village milkmaid. When a rival poet appears, it leads to delirious mayhem.

The Carl Rosa Opera Company features Charlotte Page, Bruce Graham, Giles Davies, Henry Newman, Thora Kerr, Nuala Willis, Jill Pert and Lesley Cox. The musical directors for the tour are Richard Balcombe and Martin Handley, who will conduct the Carl Rosa Orchestra of 18 players. Set and costume designs for all of the productions are by artistic director Peter Mulloy.

Following Bath and Edinburgh, the season tour visits Chichester, Newcastle, Wimbledon, Malvern and Cardiff, where it concludes on 1 December.

- by Tom Atkins & Terri Paddock