Opera Scotland

Pirates of Penzance 2013Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Pirates of Penzance

A warm welcome for Scottish Opera's first production of The Pirates of Penzance. The company first staged a Gilbert and Sullivan work, The Gondoliers, in 1968, directed by Joan Cross. The second choice, in 1986, fell on Iolanthe, given a brilliantly fresh look by Keith Warner (who also directed Pirates for D'Oyly Carte around that time). Iolanthe stayed in the repertoire for several seasons, and this fresh and breezy staging by Martin Lloyd-Evans may well enjoy the same longevity.

Pirates was given a substantial tour outside Scotland as a result of the involvement of the D'Oyly Carte as co-producers. The company made its first-ever visits to Manchester, Bristol and Cardiff, while it is pleasing to see the inclusion of Newcastle and Oxford, locations which have been off the schedule for many years. A further very welcome change was the introduction of a Saturday matinee at every venue. This allowed for a sizable contingent of children to be introduced to things operatic, with a number of appropriately piratical hats (and even the occasional cutlass) on view in the audience.

The production was almost laugh-a-minute in its constant use of sight gags, which might become wearing if not so slickly done. Several of these were referred to subsequently - seagulls causing a nuisance, sailors staggering on return to land, and so on - they could perhaps have been made more of. There were lots of references from popular culture, and not just the obvious Pirates of the Caribbean. Jamie Vartan's scenery was in style almost cardboard cutout, reminiscent of Monty Python, or (even older readers may remember) Captain Pugwash. His costumes all looked just right. There were periodic hints of morris dancing and semaphore waving. The chapel was so packed by the time the daughters had fitted in that there was scarcely room for Frederic (perhaps a nod to the Marx Brothers' Night at the Opera?). The policemen displayed a wide repertoire of silly walks. There was even a balletic spoof, with the girls' first entry, clad in white, descending the cliffs in zigzag formation, in the style of Petipa's Bayadères, though without the arabesques. This motif was repeated when the pirates made their return.

The cast was of a generally high quality. The two veterans of G & S performance, Steven Page as Pirate King and Richard Suart as Major-General, made every word tell and created three-dimensional characters. Graeme Broadbent's Sergeant was superbly acrobatic, and sported a surprising Salvador Dalì moustache. The excellent Ruth, Rosie Aldridge, may not have had the cavernous contralto tones traditionally required of Gilbert's elderly females, but she was also rather younger than the usual character.

The romantic leads, Frederic and Mabel, were double-cast for this extensive tour. The first night pairing having been very favourably received, it was good to catch up with the second couple. Sam Furness, a delightfully gormless and innocent hero, was a good actor with an excellent, sweet voice. Ellie Laugharne made a feisty Mabel, and had no problems with the coloratura elements of the role. The production imported one or two references from the other Cornish-based G & S piece, Ruddigore. While Mabel may not actually have been plain, she did wear spectacles and could read - almost as bad in Gilbert's view. Rose Maybud's book of etiquette seemed to have found its way into Frederic's possession during one of the pirates' raids - such a civilised chap!

The orchestra was excellent right from the start. An unfamiliar variant of the overture was used, an idea of John Owen Edwards - not the usual quiet start, but a rousing extract from the paradox trio. The scheduled conductor for most performances, he not only missed the opening night, but only appeared towards the end of the Scottish element of the tour, taking charge of the Edinburgh matinee. Derek Clark, originally scheduled to conduct only in Aberdeen, gave a suitably breezy account of the score at the Glasgow matinee, and a return visit showed Edwards fully able to extract a beautiful performance from all his forces.

Performance Cast

Samuel a Pirate Lieutenant

Andrew McTaggart

Pirate King

Steven Page

Frederic a Pirate Apprentice

Nicholas Sharratt (May 15, 17, 18, 24, 25, 28, 31; Jun 1, 6, 8m)

Sam Furness (May 16, 18m, 23, 25m, 30; Jun 1m, 7, 8)

Ruth a Piratical Maid of all Work

Rosie Aldridge

Mabel Gen Stanley's Youngest Daughter

Stephanie Corley (May 15, 17, 18, 24, 25, 28, 31; Jun 1, 6, 8m)

Ellie Laugharne (May 16, 18m, 23, 25m, 30; Jun 1m, 7, 8)

Rebecca Bottone

Edith Gen Stanley's Daughter

Katie Grosset

Kate Gen Stanley's Daughter

Sioned Gwen Davies

Isabel Gen Stanley's Daughter

Catrine Kirkman

Major-General Stanley

Richard Suart

Sergeant of Police

Graeme Broadbent

Performance DatesPirates of Penzance 2013

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

15 May, 19.15 16 May, 19.15 17 May, 19.15 18 May, 14.15 18 May, 19.15

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

23 May, 19.30 24 May, 19.30 25 May, 14.30 25 May, 19.30

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

28 May, 19.15 30 May, 19.15 31 May, 19.15 1 Jun, 14.15 1 Jun, 19.15

Eden Court Theatre | Inverness

6 Jun, 19.15 6 Jun, 19.15 7 Jun, 19.15 8 Jun, 14.15 8 Jun, 19.15

Opera House, Manchester | Manchester

11 Jun, 19.30 12 Jun, 14.30 12 Jun, 19.30 13 Jun, 14.30 13 Jun, 19.30 14 Jun, 19.30 15 Jun, 14.30 15 Jun, 19.30

Hippodrome, Bristol | Bristol

18 Jun, 19.30 19 Jun, 14.30 19 Jun, 19.30 20 Jun, 14.30 20 Jun, 19.30 21 Jun, 19.30 22 Jun, 14.30 22 Jun, 19.30

Theatre Royal, Newcastle | Newcastle-upon-Tyne

25 Jun, 19.30 26 Jun, 14.00 26 Jun, 19.30 27 Jun, 14.00 27 Jun, 19.30 28 Jun, 19.30 29 Jun, 14.00 29 Jun, 19.30

New Theatre | Oxford

2 Jul, 19.30 3 Jul, 14.30 3 Jul, 19.30 4 Jul, 14.30 4 Jul, 19.30 5 Jul, 19.30 6 Jul, 14.30 6 Jul, 19.30

Millennium Centre, Cardiff | Cardiff

16 Jul, 19.30 17 Jul, 14.30 17 Jul, 19.30 18 Jul, 14.30 18 Jul, 19.30 19 Jul, 19.30 20 Jul, 14.30 20 Jul, 19.30

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