Scottish Opera: The Gondoliers, Theatre Royal, Glasgow ****
WS Gilbert’s satirical language, however dated, can so easily resonate in today’s terms. Take the line “where everybody is someone, then nobody’s anybody”, a sentiment disguised as frippery in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, but which could allude to so many present day social and political issues.
The joy of Stuart Maunder’s new production for Scottish Opera – a collaboration with D’Oyly Carte and State Opera South Australia – is that he avoids any such temptations, opting instead to stage a sumptuously traditional version through which we can make our own oblique references.
Or we can simply enjoy it, as the unsuppressed laughter of a sizeable first-night audience – Scottish Opera’s long-awaited resumption of live shows in its home theatre – clearly suggested.
Designer Dick Bird’s grandiose Venetian backdrops, the luscious and ludicrous costuming (the Duchess of Plaza-Toro’s outlandish comedy dress) and, of course, the nifty song and dance routines are a titillating reintroduction to the magic of live opera.
If anything, given the crafty sentimentalism of Sullivan’s melodies, the verbal athleticism of Gilbert’s prose, and the odd customary liberties taken to update the latter (cynical swipes at current political figures), there’s a definite whiff here of Christmas panto.
Besides G&S veteran Richard Suart’s stylised conviction as the imperious Duke, and Yvonne Howard’s softly assertive Duchess, the pairing of Ellie Laugharne (Gianetta) and Sioned Gwen Davies (Tessa) is touching and exuberant.
William Morgan and Mark Nathan are a neat double act as the Gondoliers, in need of a couple more performances to fully click.
The orchestra and chorus, under conductor Derek Clark’s no-nonsense direction, are colourful and responsive. Welcome back, Scottish Opera.
The Gondoliers is at Edinburgh Festival Theatre from 28-31 October and Eden Court Inverness on 10, 11 and 13 November, full details at www.scottishopera.org.uk
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