Savoy Opera: Pirates are all at sea
Writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson is Chief Classical Music and Opera Critic for The Independent. He wrote and presented the long-running BBC Radio 3 series Stage & Screen, in which he interviewed many of the most prominent writers and stars of musical theatre. He appears regularly on BBC Radio 3 and 4. On television, he has commentated a number of times at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. He has published books on Mahler and the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and has been on Gramophone Magazine's review panel for many years. Edward presented the 2007 series of the Radio 4 music quiz Counterpoint. He has interviewed everyone from Leonard Bernstein to Liza Minelli; from Paul McCartney to Pavarotti: from Julie Andrews to Jessye Norman.
Saturday 26 December 1998
THE QUEEN'S THEATRE
A SHABBY makeshift pelmet hangs over the stage of the Queen's Theatre, photographs of Gilbert and Sullivan ignominiously displayed in crumpled papier mache frames. So much for the preservation of our national treasures. Snubbed by the Arts Council of England, the future of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company - self-proclaimed guardians of the G&S tradition - has been in doubt. Questions have been asked in the House. Which is why the people's champion, Raymond Gubbay, has ridden to the rescue.
So how come this tatty seasonal revival of The Pirates of Penzance looks and behaves as if it's arrived about a century too late? How come extinction suddenly seems like a better bet than preservation? Is this the shapelessness of things to come, or one final reminder that the financial situation is indeed desperate?
Gubbay knows better than to serve up something as obviously penny- pinching as this to a West-End audience. For mise-en-scene read miserly- en-scene. Roger Kirk is credited as designer, but scenery like this isn't designed, it's discarded. Act Two is indeed "a draughty old ruin", but of what? The 1886 production of Ruddigore, as seen from behind?
Now, I love every last syllable and semi-quaver of the Savoy operas and it pains me to see them dragged out of hock in this way. You have two choices when mounting G&S today: either you preserve absolutely the style, texts, and traditions - in which case only the superlative will do - or you find ways (as witness the marvellous Miller Mikado at ENO) of sharpening up the ironies for a modern audience. Stuart Maunder's production manages neither. Rather, he recycles every cliche, every bad sight gag, in the dog-eared D'Oyly Carte manual. How funny the knee- bends of the constabulary could have been, if only the gag had been better choreographed. There were too many more where that came from.
The company were full of good intentions, though Jill Pert's Ruth and Richard Suart's Major-General should have been better. As Mabel, Anna- Clare Monk's soubrette was pretty enough, while Christopher Saunders gave us a sweetly sung Frederic. Their Act Two duet was the musical highlight of the evening - by which time our ears had adjusted to the somewhat weedy, though well deployed, nine-piece orchestra.
Biggest laugh of the evening: "With all our heart, we love our House of Peers." Not for much longer. Be warned, D'Oyly Carte.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Ashya King missing: Police hunt five-year-old boy with brain tumour snatched from Southampton hospital by his parents
- 2 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 3 Daily Show's Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage
- 4 Botched ice bucket challenge leaves man critically injured after plane drops hundreds of gallons of water
- 5 Friends reunion: Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox perform mini sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
Great British Bake Off 2014: Diana Beard quits after falling ill
Friends reunion: Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox perform mini sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
Breaking Bad season 6 hoax: Vince Gilligan has not confirmed a new series
Strictly Come Dancing v X Factor: Simon Cowell blasts BBC over scheduling war
Doctor Who series 8: Ofcom will not investigate lesbian kiss
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
- < Previous
- Next >