Buxton Gilbert & Sullivan Festival 2011 – Good characterization and a fresh look for Ruddigore

10/08/2011

Sullivan, Ruddigore: Soloists and Chorus of the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company 6.8.2011 (RJW)

Richard Gauntlet … Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd
Oliver White … Richard Dauntless
Philip Cox … Sir Despard Murgatroyd
Simon Masterson-Smith … Adam Goodheart
Charlotte Page … Rose Maybud
Victoria Byron Mad Margaret
Jill Pert … Dame Hannah
Natalie Sinnot … Zorah
Denise Silvey Ruth
Donald Maxwell … Sir Roderick Murgatroyd

Musical Direction by John Owen Edwards
Directed by Jeff Clarke

This new production from the Gilbert and SullianOpera Company is playing for three nights during the festival and is being enjoyed for its fresh staging. An animated Dame Hannah, reminiscent of an old Mazawattee tea advert, holds our focus amongst a blushing bevy of pink-faced bridesmaids whilst she relates the legend of the Curse of Ruddigore before bringing out her churchwarden’s clay pipe.

Charlotte Page was also on form with delightful singing and her innocent portrayal of Rose. The duet ‘I know a youth’ was sung with believable innocence. A stirring entrance for a sea-salt sprayed Dick was followed by dialogue with suggestive double entendres which worked to a better degree than his unaccountable white face.

Mad Margaret’s eccentric emotions came across well and Gilbert’s surreal dialogue with Rose was convincingly comic, as was the men’s chorus making their entrance through a stage-coach door. A split set for the preparation of Robin and Rose’s marriage was effective as was the transformation of crude cottage-fronted wing legs to garden trees. However, exaggerated perspective by the wings caused sight-line problems for upstage action for some of the audience. The accompanying madrigal ‘Hail the bride’ was very pleasantly sung and the rousing Act 1 finale with good groupings was most effective.

Much was made of the entrances of Old Adam who added humour by assuming that the applause for a finishing vocal number was intended for his entrance. His Gideon Crawle dialogue had been reinstated for this production. The extended and sincere Gideon was an asset to the production. It was good to hear Robin’s usually cut original number, ‘For 35 years’ again in Act 2. His acting throughout was convincing.

Musically, John Owen Edwards gave a sumptuous and brisk reading of the score and we heard the delightful, original overture (changed in 1924 when Geoffrey Toye substituted a revised one). Rose’s ‘If somebody there chanced to be’ was given its second verse as was ‘In bygone days’; and the duet, ‘The battle’s roar is over’ was reinstated in full. The previously lost ghost’s march was appropriately used during an extended appearance of the ghosts from their picture frames.

Jeff Clarke’s production amplified some characterizations and the chorus routines were handled with care.

Raymond J Walker

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