Opera Scotland

Gondoliers 2022Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Gondoliers

This London visit is two years after its originally scheduled appearance, having been a casualty of the lengthy Covid lockdown.  Its Scottish tour, in the Autumn of 2021, doesn't seem to have suffered any loss of high spirits.  The chorus is hugely impressive, not just in its singing, but despatching the Spanish-style choreography of Isabel Baquero with enormous energy and enthusiasm.

Having seen and enjoyed it in Edinburgh, it was a thoroughly welcome experience to meet it again in the beautiful, intimate auditorium of the Hackney Empire in London.  The theatre was crowded, the whole production crisp and fresh.  With a time lapse since the seventeen performnces in the autumn, here were a further five, spread over Wednesday to Saturday, including two matinees and a gap to accommodate a single performance of Utopia, Limited on Friday.

Scottish Opera seem to be developing a fruitful relationship with Hackney Empire, using it as a base for regular London visits.  One of the best survivors from the late-Victorian Frank Matcham theatre design studio, dating from 1901, its enthusiastic backers were still celebrating its 120th anniversary.  With the cheerful staff working in a beautifully proportioned and freshly decorated auditorium, it is hard to believe that this wonderful asset for the local community was very lucky to have survived for a century.  It is the perfect example of how a previously threatened building can be rescued and restored.

After a week of gloriously  warm spring weather the final day of March provided a contrast.  It was bitterly cold, with flurries of snow the length of the country.  One of the most effervescent products of the G & S partnership was just the thing to warm up the audience.  Cheerful at half-time, they were near-ecstatic by the end.  The quality of the performance was grounded firmly on the excellent Orchestra of Scottish Opera, briskly conducted by Derek Clark, and the wonderful chorus.  They sang delightfully, with beautifully clear diction (for once the supertitles were almost superfluous).  Even better was the dancing, especially the Spanish-style cachuca that permeates the second act in Barataria.  The movement was beautifully synchronised and expertly drilled, with the performers giving every indication of their continued enjoyment of the production.

The set designs were altogether excellent, looking just as stylish on the smaller stage as they had in Edinburgh.  The first act had a sense of space and airiness reminiscent of the canalscapes of Guardi and Canaletto.  Costumes too were hard to fault.  One excentricity did remain, however, that being Casilda's eyepatch.  That was reminiscent of Princess Eboli in Verdi's Don Carlos, a rther more serious feature than this work usually displays.

The cast was unchanged since November, but for the scheduled arrival of Charlie Drummond in the role of Giannetta.  Given that this character is rarely allowed a solo appearance, being constantly paired with Tessa or in quartet, or larger ensemble, it must be quite tricky to step in to a seasoned staging.  At this, her third performance, there was absolutely no sign of any problems.

Richard Suart first sang the Duke with D'Oyly Carte in 1991.  The voice may be slightly threadbare now, but he is still an expert with the comedy.  His topical amendments to 'Small titles and orders' were particularly apposite, with references to Downing Street parties, dubious honours, and Dominic Cummings duly brought the house down.  Strangely enough, Gilbert's original lyrics for the Duchess were largely still surprisingly appropriate without adjustment. 

Ben  McAteer had grown nicely into the part of Don Alhambra, dominating the stage with ease.  William Morgan, Mark Nathan, Sioned Gwen Davies and Arthur Bruce were all completely relaxed and confident in their command of the stage. 

Playing in tandem, with the same performers and most of the same set, is a single semi-staged performance of the G & S work that followed The Gondoliers - a great rarity in Utopia, Limited.  London has a single performance on the Friday evening.

 

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

Charlie Drummond

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

Inez the King's Foster-mother

Cheryl Forbes

Performance DatesGondoliers 2022

Map List

Hackney Empire | London

30 Mar, 19.30 31 Mar, 14.30 31 Mar, 19.30 2 Apr, 14.30 2 Apr, 19.30

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