United Kingdom Gilbert & Sullivan, HMS Pinafore: National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company, Harrogate Festival, Royal Hall, Harrogate, Yorkshire, England, 5.8.2017. (RJW)
Sir Joseph Porter – Richard Gauntlett
Captain Corcoran – Toby Stafford-Allen
Ralph Rackstraw – Nick Sales
Dick Deadeye – Simon Wilding
Bill Bobstay (boatswain) – Matthew Kellett
Bob Becket (carpenter) – Jonathan Stirland
Josephine – Emma Walsh
Hebe – Katie Grosset
Mrs Cripps (Buttercup) – Mae Heydorn
Director – Donald Maxwell
Musical Director – Andrew Nicklin
Choreographer – Mitchell Harper
Costume Design – Janet Morris
Lighting – David Marsden
Scenery – Paul Lazell
The National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company has been presenting the Savoy operas over a number of years and has been excellent in regularly regenerating new productions for the Festival. This new production was preceded by a selective touring schedule. This plan of regeneration is good for it allows an audience to make repeated visits and be assured that there will often be fresh components, from changes of performers, costumes and presentation. I thought I knew this production, but, no, as it another fresh production, this time directed by Donald Maxwell, well known singer and former stage director at the Buxton Opera Festival and elsewhere. The production was played traditionally, which is sometimes a welcome relief from some of the avant-garde productions with over-clever slants, and not what Gilbert originally intended. They rarely work.
A bustling and energetic opening set the right mood for the show and Act I flowed at an excellent pace. I personally liked the characterisations, fresh stage movement and groupings. This was all helped with music played at sprightly tempi by Andrew Nicklin, the Festival orchestra as faultless as ever.
With Richard Gauntlett in the limelight as Sir Joseph one was assured of good humour and clarity in his singing. Warm-toned Emma Walsh soared in Josephine’s arias and she was a delight to hear, while Nick Sales relished in the part of Ralph, a role he has played many times before. Their interaction of amorous friendship was nicely judged and convincing. Toby Stafford-Allen was authoritative in his reading of Captain Corcoran and the crew were shown their place in rank. His “Fair Moon” was memorable and it is just a pity that there was no moon to look to as his key light. The lighting of Act II was little different from Act I, which was a pity because one expected “Carefully on tiptoe stealing” to be played in comparative gloom. Buttercup (Mae Heydorn) was convincing in her warnings to Corcoran during “Things are seldom what they seem” and the scene was quite poignant in its playing. Dick Deadeye unusually was portrayed as fairly nice sailor without any pantomimic nastiness of an ogre. I thought Simon Wilding’s character was probably convincing enough though it is hard to cast off decades of conditioning that has been given when seeing the stereotypical Deadeye regularly perform.
With a youth Pinafore being concurrently rehearsed (review click here) it is that a pity a ship’s mascot could not have been found as this was a feature of early Savoy (and possibly earlier Opera Comique) productions.
Raymond J Walker