Opera review: Ruddigore: Opera North, Edinburgh Festival Theatre

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GILBERT and Sullivan’s tenth opera is a typically preposterous affair, a tale of witches’ curses, secret identities and crazed bridesmaids that pokes gleeful fun at the whole Victorian gothic genre while still managing to send a bit of a shiver down the spine.

Ruddigore: Opera North

Edinburgh Festival Theatre

****

And Jo Davies’s expertly- judged production for Opera North, first seen in Leeds in 2010, succeeded in having it both ways too. On the one hand it was an affectionate parody of the whole Gilbert and Sullivan style, with winks to the audience and updated patter-song lyrics referring to phone hacking and MPs’ expenses.

But it wasn’t all arch and knowing – there was a genuine respect for the genre’s traditions, and often touching sincerity in the lead performances. Rebecca Moon was prim and proper – and bright-voiced – as Rose Maybud, the object of the affections of the good-hearted Robin Oakapple, a persuasive Grant Doyle.

Even Heather Shipp’s wailing Mad Margaret – still besotted with her sailor beau Richard Dauntless (a characterful, if at times hard to understand, Joshua Ellicott) after his years at sea – stopped just short of self-parody.

But it was in Act II that things really took off, as ghosts emerged from paintings in Richard Hudson’s handsome sepia-tinged set, and stentorian Steven Page strode the stage as a commanding Roderic Murgatroyd, spectral lord of Ruddigore from years gone by.

Conductor Timothy Henty delivered finely-tuned playing from the Northern Sinfonia throughout, and special mention should go to the women of the Opera North chorus, thoroughly entertaining as the gaggle of demented bridesmaids.