DURHAM will play host to acts from all around the world, with festivals, plays and operas all set to grace the Gala Theatre stage over the coming months, as the new season begins to take shape.

The Durham Blues Festival opens on Saturday June 17, and will feature Debbie Bond, Dr Feelgood, Ryan McGarvey and headliner Kyla Brox amongst others, and the festival will be the first of many.

Live music will take centre stage once again with the Brass Festival, celebrating all the best in soul and jazz, as BRASS returns to the city for the 11th consecutive year.

Robin Byers, Durham County Council’s service manager for The Gala Theatre, said: “It’s festival season once again and we will be hosting a whole series of exciting events as part of the BRASS Festival.”

The ten-day event includes performances from the likes of The Cory Band, the BBC Big Band and the Scottish Swing Orchestra, and will run from Friday July 7 to Sunday July 16.

Musical theatre lovers will have the chance to participate in a masterclass with Les Miserables, Cats and We Will Rock You Broadway star Kerry Ellis. The session is to take place on Saturday July 1, and will give the audience the opportunity to ask questions to Ellis following the masterclass.

One of the world’s most loved operas, Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, comes to the Gala Theatre in May. Staged by the leading touring opera company in the UK, The English Touring Opera, the performance will take place on Tuesday May 16. They will also perform Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience the previous evening, which satirises the affection and pretentiousness of celebrities.

The new season will bring theatre to suit all tastes, with the chance to see Mr Corvan’s Music Hall from Thursday May 25 to Saturday May 27. The new musical was written by Tyneside-based playwright Ed Waugh, author of Hadaway Harry and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Durham, and tells the story of the 19th century comedian and musician Ned Corvan.

Later in the summer, the young stars of Gala Theatre Stage School will take to the stage with their version of Rent – School Edition, a story of impoverished young artists struggling to survive in New York’s East Village. The stage school currently involves 220 young people between the ages of 3 and 23 years old, and will be performed over a seven-day period from Saturday July 29 to Saturday August 5.

“This summer’s broad-ranging programme also features everything from the elegance of Birmingham Royal Ballet to the observational and lyrical humour of Dr John Cooper Clarke” says Byers, highlighting the variety on show at the Gala Theatre.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet are set to make their comeback with a triple bill. Solitaire, 5 Tangos and Pineapple Poll will take place from Tuesday May 9 to Wednesday May 10, and Dr John Cooper Clarke returns to Gala on Saturday May 6, entertaining audiences with his witty northern narratives and keen social observations.

The National Theatre will have performances broadcast at the theatre in the new season, with Oscar-nominee Jude Law starring in the stage adaptation of Obsession on Thursday May 11, and fellow Oscar-nominee Imelda Staunton takes to the stage in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? over a period of twelve days from Thursday May 18 onwards.

There’s also plenty to keep audiences entertained with top comedians lined up across the season. Satirical impressionist and star of the BAFTA-winning Bremner, Bird and Fortune, Rory Bremner visits Durham on Wednesday July 12, and brings along some special surprise guests. While The Comedy Store’s provide a stellar line-up of top comedic talent each and every month.

Also in July, audiences will be enthralled by a talk from the ‘greatest living explorer’ Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who offers a personal journey through his life. Mind over Matter covers his life story from his childhood in Windsor to becoming the first explorer to visit the North and South Poles, up to the present day and his current Global Reach Challenge, where he aims to cross both polar ice caps and climb the highest mountains of each of the seven continents.

Tickets are on sale for a selection of events, and more information is available at The Gala box office, at www.galadurham.co.uk or by calling 03000 266 600.