Spanish Brigands Become Modern Guerillas at Buxton

16/08/2012

 Burnand & Sullivan, The Contrabandista, The Glitter & Twisted Theatre Company / Suzanne Barnes (conductor), Buxton G&S Festival, The Pavilion Theatre, Buxton. 5.8.2012 (RJW)

Cast:

Sancho, the Lion: Malcolm Webb
José, the Wolf: Samuel Taunton
Inez (Queen of the tribe): Rebecca Fearnley
Rita: Lesley Hendrie
Count Vasquez: Ralph Barnes
Adophus Grigg: Alan Feeney
Spanish Army Sergeant: Richard Schofield

Production:

BBC Announcer: Simon Moss
Choreography: Sarah Lowe
Musical Directior: Suzanne Barnes
Director: Simon Moss

It was nice to have this rarity by Burnand & Sullivan in this year’s Festival programme. It must be 15 years since The Contrabandista was last performed at the Buxton Festival.

Much of the success of this production lies in the enthusiastic and inventive direction by Simon Moss. Care has been taken to wed the Victorian story to a modern framework by moving it forward 150 years to the late 20th century where Spanish brigands have become plantation worker guerillas, with one of the band leaders taking on the guise of a suicide bomber when the chief plots to kill him. The action takes place in a Spanish orange grove where the band are industriously engaged crating the sun-soaked fruits.

A touch of originality is shown where a prologue announces that, “the BBC orchestra will now play ‘The Bolero’ from The Contrabandista. This is used as an Overture since Sullivan only wrote 16 bars play-in at the start of Act I. The opening works well where the ‘Hush, hush’ makes a lot of sense with Sancho and José asking for quietness from the noisy plantation workers so they can hear sounds in the ground of an approaching foe. Throughout, the committed chorus sang well with clear part separation and good movement routines. They were excellently trained by musical director, Suzanne Barnes, and were effective with a good range of dynamics.

The central attention of the libretto is an Scotsman, Grigg who is nicely portrayed as a bumbling idiot caught up in the brigands’ band. He enunciated well and sang with considerable clarity. The Queen impressed with a formidable and commanding presence, and who was excellent in voice. Despite the good singing I felt that the Count’s usually tranquil ‘Wake, gentle maiden’ was too forte and heavy to match its dolce lyrics and accompaniment, yet elsewhere he came across convincingly. Rita carried her English lady correctness convincingly and enchanted with sweetness in “He will return”.

The principals were all to a high standard, and I liked Jose’s clear diction and interaction with Inez. There were times when the theatre acoustics caused the orchestra to blanket some of the singing and asides were too quiet to carry to those distant seats. Extra lines were added to lift sections of Burnand’s turgid libretto, like “it’s so like a band” (Gondoliers). The band’s emblem is traditionally a tall dunce’s hat, but in its place a miniature top hat is used in this production. I liked the visual graphics such as the misspelt LION to read LOIN and a hat box, labelled ‘Coro Nation Hat’ that added to Burnand’s sparse humour. Dressing Grigg up in the deceased captain’s outsized clothes was brilliant as he literally steps into the Captain’s shoes.

Much use was made of different sized packing crates (for the oranges) that could be rearranged to make a coronation seat, a bed, and objects to hide behind. Having a decoy duck and pigeon stuck on top of Joe & Sancho’s field hats was a nice touch, but I felt Grigg needed to be placed at a much bigger distance to have the hiding believable. A freezing and slow-motion, dreamlike sequence for the chorus was effective and nicely presented. A radiant orange provided a focal point for the Spanish theme and acted both as the sun.

This Gloucestershire production was enjoyable for its originality. Simon Moss has been fundamental in its worthwhile creation.

Raymond J Walker

Print Friendly

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Celebrates its 25th Anniversary with Nicolò Isouard’s Cinderella __________________________________
  • NEW! Pop-Up Opera’s 2018 Mozart Double Bill __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF) 2018 Celebrates its Eighth Year __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Chess at the London Coliseum from 26 April for 5 Weeks __________________________________
  • NEW! The Three Choirs Festival 2018: A Preview __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Season at the Royal Opera House __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018 Cheltenham Music Festival – 30 June to 15 July __________________________________
  • NEW! Staatsoper Unter de Linden in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! St Petersburg Ballet Theatre Bring Swan Lake to London in August __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet Announces its 2018-19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Cleveland Orchestra’s 2018-19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Booking Open for Longborough Festival Opera 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Additional Tickets Now Available for Nevill Holt Opera’s Le nozze di Figaro __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Four-Day Celebration of Art Song in April 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! World Premiere by Novaya Opera of Pushkin – The Opera in the Theatre in the Woods __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Massenet’s Thaïs at the Cadogan Hall on 23 June __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Carly Paoli Sings for Chelsea Pensioners, at Cadogan Hall, and Signs for Sony/ATV __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • NEW! A First Charity Classical Music Concert at Finchcocks on 27 May __________________________________
  • NEW! MICHAEL SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Trinity Laban Moves to Abolish All-Male Composer Concerts __________________________________
  • NEW! ARABELLA STEINBACHER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella in Cinemas on 15 May with Live Q&A __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR LAURENCE EQUILBEY IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! Newly Discovered Song by Alma Mahler to be Performed in Oxford and Newbury __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ANDREA CARÈ AS HE RETURNS TO COVENT GARDEN AS DON JOSÉ __________________________________
  • NEW! Rafael de Acha Introduces Some of Cincinnati’s New Musical Entrepreneurs __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month