THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE
libretto by W S Gilbert music by Arthur Sullivan.
London Coliseum St Martin’s Lane In rep to 4 July 2015.
2.30pm 23 May, 13, 27 June.
3pm 21 June.
6.30pm 16 May, 4 July.
7.30pm 14, 19, 23, 29 May, 5, 13, 20, 26, 27 June.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7845 9300.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 May.
A new triumph in English National Opera’s repertoire.
In director Mike Leigh’s film Vera Drake police arrives to arrest Vera during a family meal. The cast was, famously, amazed. For Leigh’s working method means each actor knows only what their character knows.
Yet a popular Gilbert and Sullivan work is known in detail to most English opera companies and audiences. Certainly to Leigh, whose 1999 film Topsy Turvy grew from a long-held fascination with the pair’s operettas. However he approached Pirates, the result is a life and depth experience. Moments are energised, the famous tendency towards seriousness in Sullivan’s music given full measure and no character taken for granted.
Ruth, the aging nurse who joined the pirates to be with her young charge Frederic, has near-tragic dignity as Rebecca de Pont Davies moves around energetically, keeping up despite her limp (if it is an actual injury it’s a fortunate one for the characterisation), then collapses in grief upon being separated from the young man who thinks he’s now free of piratical embrace.
Similarly, the grief Major-General Stanley’s daughter Mabel feels when Frederic has to return to piracy matches the fine, plangent tune Sullivan provides. It’s the unhappiness of a brave personality first seen when Claudia Boyle steps impulsively from the back row of the Stanley females and proceeds with girlish glee to give physical expression to her feelings for the poor wandering one.
This sudden emergence characterises the elaborate vocal line Sullivan provides – it’s joyful to hear this, like so much else in the newly radiant-seeming score, sung by people with operatically-trained voices, which have a technique and consequent freedom beyond that of miked-up musical theatre singers.
Andrew Shore handles the Major-General’s patter song immaculately at speed, ending clearly as the fond father of an extensive family who crowd around him. Nothing’s extraneous, though there’s plenty of colour in Alison Chitty’s elegant, largely abstract settings (flat floor rather than rocky mountain) and costumes – the daughters with a splendid array of hues in their dresses, under Paul Pyant’s lighting.
Sympathetically conducted by David Parry, English National Opera’s orchestra provides a bedrock for the score’s comic and serious moments.
Major-General Stanley: Andrew Shore.
The Pirate King: Joshua Bloom.
Samuel: Alexander Robin Baker.
Frederic: Robert Murray.
Sergeant of Police: Jonathan Lemalu.
Mabel: Claudia Boyle.
Edith: Soraya Mafi.
Kate: Angharad Lyddon.
Isabel: Lydia Marchione.
Ruth: Rebecca de Pont Davies.
Conductor: David Parry.
Director: Mike Leigh.
Designer: Alison Chitty.
Lighting: Paul Pyant.
Choreographer: Francesca Jaynes.
Chorus Master: Martin Fitzpatrick.
Assistant conductor: Timothy Henty.
Assistant chorus master: Chad Kelly.
This production will be live-screened to various cinemas on 19 May. There will also be cameras in the auditorium on 16 May.
Co-production with Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg and the Saarländische Staatstheater Saarbrücken.
New production supported by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union and a syndicate of individual donors.
World premiere of this production by English National Opera at the London Coliseum 9 May 2015.