Opera Scotland

Gondoliers 2021Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Gondoliers

Scottish Opera's Second Gondoliers Staging

This staging was originally planned for the 2019/20 season, but became one of the first casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic. As one of the jolliest of the G & S canon it was therefore a highly appropriate vehicle for the company to launch an autumn season that was clearly at attempt to return to some form of normality. We attended the eleventh of the seventeen performances (4 November in Edinburgh) when the tangible sense of enjoyment crossing the footlights was met with huge enthusiasm by an audience that was still socially-spaced and masked. The huge theatre was therefore by no means full, but that is a level of normality that will take a while to restore.

The director, Stuart Maunder, is in charge of the co-producing State Opera South Australia. Maunder has directed several G & S works over the years, always achieving lively and successful results.  The evening had a freshness of approach that was most enjoyable, with absolutely no sense of routine. The chorus movement ensured that there was never the slightest monotony, of people forming lines. The dances concocted by Isabel Baquero were performed with well-co-ordinated enthusiasm. One misjudgment at the end was the suggestion that Inez had actually been tortured on the rack.  Her shrieking was too much of a distractin.

The set designs by Dick Bird gave a clear sense of 18th century Venice - the panoramas of Canaletto and Guardi were not far away. His costumes were generally equally successful. The Venetian girls looked delightful, while of the men the Duke and Don Alhambra were particularly successful. The two gondoliers in the second act wore effective split patterns, and Luiz's outfit was swiftly adapted to end in an appropriately royal style.  Only the Duchess's outfit distracted, with massive panniers to either side of her, audibly trundling about on castors. Casilda's outfit was far more appropriate - though giving her a black eye-patch, reminiscent of Princess Eboli in Don Carlos, did seem odd - maybe that was the point.

Scottish Opera's Head of Music, Derek Clark, also has wide experience with this repertoire. Clark assisted that great Sullivan enthusiast, Sir Charles Mackerras, in the production of several recordings when they both worked at Welsh National Opera.  His conducting was always sprightly and also brought out a huge amount of instrumental detail that is often missed.  Indeed some of that detail was retrieved by Clark from manuscript sources and differed from the published score.

The cast is led by the leading comic performer Richard Suart, as the Duke, a part he first played thirty years ago with the briefly revived D'Oyly Carte company.  Inevitably the actual singing voice was not as fresh, but his diction still had superb immediacy.  As expected, he amended some of the verses of 'Small titles and orders' to reflect recent topicalities, including the redecoration at Downing Street. Some of the most appropriate lines about MPs and their earnings that raised the loudest laughs were, in fact, original Gilbert.

Ben McAteer is the Grand Inquisitor, also a veteran of the most recent of Scottish Opera's G & S stagings, The Mikado in 2016.  His larger-than-life costume was hugely effective and he dominated the stage with ease. William Morgan and Mark Nathan as Marco and Giuseppe, were necessarily a double act but were separated as much as could be. By contrast, their girls were separated as much as possible, which added to the visual variety.  Luiz and Casilda were able to make more of a positive impression than has sometimes been the case.  While the solos went well, The Gondoliers depends a great deal on the vocal ensembles, and these were all staged well, avoiding the traps and clichés of dance patterns.

Scottish Opera's chorus members have always been highly active dancers, and this production continues that tradition, with the Spanish-style choreography despatched with huge energy and enthusiasm.  In all, this is a highly enjoyable staging of a work which can sometimes seem uneven in its inspiration.

Performances at the Hackney Empire in London, originally scheduled for May 2020, will now be given two years later, in March and April 2022.

 

Background

For many decades after its first performance in 1889, The Gondoliers, though one of the last works of the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership, remained among the most highly regarded and popular. In recent decades, since the cessation of the D'Oyly Carte tours, performances have become much less frequent. This seems strange, as musically it is one of the most bubbly and effervescent of their works. The Gondoliers was the first operetta to be mounted by Scottish Opera, back in 1968, even before the company tackled The Merry Widow or Die Fledermaus.

 

The effects of Coronavirus

It was sadly inecessary that the extended run of performances of this new staging planned for spring 2000 would fall a victim to the burgeoning threat of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic that swept the world during the first quarter of the year, continuing through the following year as well.

It was made clear on Monday, 16 March, 2020 that all meeting places of any significance - pubs, restaurants, concert halls, theatres and opera houses - would be closed for a significant duration. Not only was the new staging of  A Midsummer Night's Dream cancelled, but also the subsequent productions of The Gondoliers and Utopia Limited. The concert performances of Cavalleria rusticana and Zingari also bit the dust.  It is hoped that they will all be revived when the theatres reopen, with luck sooner rather than later.  The two Gilbert and Sullivan works are the first to be confirmed with the Britten also to follow in the spring of 2022.

Twenty-two performances were originally scheduled for:

May 14, 15, 16, 17 (m), 22, 23 (Theatre Royal Glasgow at 14:30 & 19:15); May 28, 29 & 30 (His Majesty's Aberdeen at 19:15); June 3, 4, 5, 6 (Eden Court Inverness at 19:15); June 10, 11, 13 (m & e) (Festival Theatre Edinburgh 14:30 & 19:15); July 15, 16 (m & e), 18 (m & e) (Hackney Empire London 14: 30 & 19:30).

The preliminary advertising for the Perth Festival had also announced one performance, probably on May 26, but the entire 2020 Festival was cancelled.

Like Scottish Opera's previous G & S productions of The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado, this is a co-production with D'Oyly Carte. Previously this led to a substantial number of additional performances programmed for venues down south.  No word of these is available.

 

TV Presentation

The Edinburgh performance on 28 October was filmed for showing on BBC4 on Sunday, 17 April 2022 at 8pm.  It will be available on the iplayer for 5 years.

Performance Cast

Fiametta a Contadina

Zoë Drummond

Francesco a Venetian Gondolier

Osian Wyn Bowen

Giulia a Contadina

Grace Maria Wain

Antonio a Venetian Gondolier

Arthur Bruce

Giorgio a Venetian Gondolier

Oskar McCarthy

Vittoria a Contadina

Flora Macdonald

Marco Palmieri a Venetian Gondolier

William Morgan

Giuseppe Palmieri a Venetian Gondolier

Mark Nathan

Tessa a Contadina

Sioned Gwen Davies

Gianetta a Contadina

Ellie Laugharne

Duke of Plaza-Toro a Grandee of Spain

Richard Suart

Duchess of Plaza-Toro

Yvonne Howard

Casilda daughter of the Duke and Duchess

Catriona Hewitson

Luiz the Duke's Attendant

Dan Shelvey

Don Alhambra del Bolero the Grand Inquisitor

Ben McAteer (Exc Nov 10, 11)

Eddie Wade (Nov 10, 11)

Inez the King's Foster-mother

Cheryl Forbes

Performance DatesGondoliers 2021

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

16 Oct, 19.15 21 Oct, 14.30 21 Oct, 19.15 23 Oct, 14.30 23 Oct, 19.15

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

28 Oct, 19.15 29 Oct, 19.15 30 Oct, 14.30 30 Oct, 19.15 31 Oct, 19.15 4 Nov, 19.15 6 Nov, 14.30 6 Nov, 19.15

Eden Court Theatre | Inverness

10 Nov, 19.15 11 Nov, 19.15 13 Nov, 14.30 13 Nov, 19.15

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