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Gilbert & Sullivan The Gondoliers
English National Opera at London Coliseum 22 November 2006

Geoffrey Dolton (Duke Of Plazatoro), Robert Murray (Luiz), Donald Maxwell (Don Alhambra Del Bolero), David Curry (Marco Palmieri), Toby Stafford-Allen (Giuseppe Palmieri), Ann Murray (Duchess Of Plazatoro), Rebecca Bottone (Casilda), Sarah Tynan (Gianetta), Stephanie Marshall (Tessa)
English National Opera Orchestra/Richard Balcombe

Director: Martin Duncan.
Designer: Ashley Martin-Davis

We soon found ourselves out of sympathy with this revival of what may be one of the lesser operettas in the G & S canon (Mike Leigh refers to its "curious dramatic shortcomings"in the programme book).

It seemed more formulaic than some of the favourites – doling out solo numbers to each of the principals in turn. The "funny lady" - Deborah Davison as the aged crone Inez - appeared too late to save the day (c.p. Katisha's entrance in The Mikado).

No objections (others had some) to the colourful setting, though perhaps the canals and bridges make it too complicated for the cast to negotiate easily?

It was interesting to see a traditional staging - I guess the movements were vintage D'Oyly Carte? Although the singers took all possible pains with their diction - Donald Maxwell, the Grand Inquisitor, the best - for the quaint sung text (not updated) some listeners certainly needed the surtitles which, thankfully, were provided.

No attempt to make the "maidens" - putative fiancées - adhere to current media expectations of young femininity; some members of the ENO Chorus were presumably seeking second marriages and good luck to them...

Sullivan offers nice tunes, but nothing to really stretch ENO's opera singers. I enjoyed the now rare chance to listen to an overture without frolicking on stage - but it needed to have been better played...

Looking at the reviews as a whole (see eight reviews and five images at The Opera Critic) the theatre critics appear to have liked it more than the music critics.

Peter Grahame Woolf & Serena Fenwick

Picture© English National Opera and Tristram Kenton