Charles Court Opera has returned yet again to Islington’s fringe theatre the King’s Head with its latest Gilbert and Sullivan offering, ‘The Pirates of Penzance’. This is a G&S stalwart that I have heard much about over the years, yet before Thursday had not had the pleasure of watching in its entirety. This company continues to blaze a trail in the world of fringe opera, not least because of its special connection with the ferociously talented Eaton-Young Piano Duo. These pianists arrange the orchestral scores complete for piano four hands or two pianos, thereby allowing performances in venues previously inaccessible for opera, without any detriment, might I add, to the quality of accompaniment.
With a cast comprised of a healthy mix of CCO regulars and new faces, the production was at all times sparky and engaging. John Savournin has once again combined the roles director, choreographer and performer admirably; his silky bass-baritone and comic timing produced an excellent portrayal of the Pirate King. Another highlight was the comedic trio of Mabel (Alexandra Hutton), Edith (Charlotte Baptie) and Kate (Nichola Jolley); these ladies really captured the naiveté and pliability of three young maidens. Hutton in particular was extremely effective in evoking Mabel’s ‘blondeness’, through want of a better term – her bright and clear soprano was effectively employed to achieve the character’s personality. The men also did a superb job; Matthew Kellett’s Samuel was well thought through and humorously received by the audience. Ian Jervis as General Stanley certainly won the hearts of the auditorium; particularly in his triumphant number ‘I am the very modern of a modern Major-General’. My other musical highlight was ‘How beautifully blue the sky’, which simultaneously set up the romance between Mabel and Frederic (Kevin Kyle), while allowing Edith and Kate to tickle the audience with their impressive patter-singing.
An extra word of praise must go to Annie Loach’s set design, which made impressive and innovative use of the small space that is the King’s Head Theatre.
CCO continues to provide an effective bridge between top conservatoire education and the professional opera world, while setting itself apart from the pack in the league of G&S productions. I urge you not to miss out on what will be a fantastic run of performances – book here.
Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, Mark McCloskey.