Posts Tagged ‘Richard Suart’

The Mikado, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, December 2012

6 December, 2012

The Mikado himself in this fantasia of English eccentricity was gloriously played by Richard Angas, with Robert Murray excellent as Nanki-Poo, and Richard Suart giving a brilliant performance of Ko-Ko in his 25thanniversary of the role. This vintage production continues to sparkle with bounce and fizz, and is so extraordinarily up to date that Ko-Ko’s little list of Society offenders not only includes the latest scandals, but even mentions George Osborne’s autumn statement, which he only gave on the day of this performance.

The Mikado, all images ENO/ Sarah Lee

The Mikado, all images ENO/ Sarah Lee

Clearly one should keep going to further nights of The Mikado to catch all the clever innuendos that Richard Suart puts into his role as Ko-Ko. I loved the allusion to the Leveson Inquiry, “I’ve put him on my list, in case I’m on his list”; the bit about corporate tax dodgers; and “the Speaker’s wife who’s such a berk and believes in Trial by Twitter”. Bravo! Satire is alive and well at the London Coliseum.

Pooh Bah, Ko-Ko, Pish-Tush

Pooh Bah, Ko-Ko, Pish-Tush

Add to this the glorious choreography and tap dancing, the super performance of Yvonne Howard as Katisha, with the lovely Mary Bevan as Yum-Yum, along with Fiona Canfield and Rachael Lloyd as the other two of the Three Little Maids from School, and you have a performance to charm the eye and delight the ear.

Three Little Girls from School

Three Little Maids from School

This Jonathan Miller production with designs by the late Stefanos Lazaridis, whose work was recently seen at Covent Garden in the Ring cycle, shows a white-on-white hotel complete with palms and piano. It’s huge fun, and the costumes by Sue Blane give a great sense of stylised Englishness masquerading as something from the Far East. Well conducted by David Parry with its sense of spontaneity revived by Elaine Tyler-Hall, this has a freshness belying the age of the production.

Yvonne Howard as Katisha

Yvonne Howard as Katisha

Yvonne Howard sang beautifully in her solo before Ko-Ko enters to propose to her in Act II, and when Richard Angas as the Mikado says, “Till after lunch then — bon appétit!”, I had to laugh out loud. The main characters bring perfection to their performances, spicing the wit of the words by body language and presentation, yet it all appears entirely natural and unrehearsed. This glorious piece of Gilbert and Sullivan is worth revisiting for the clever innuendos alone, even if you have seen it many times before.

Performances continue until January 31 — for details click here.

Opera Shots: The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Doctor’s Tale, Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House, April 2011

9 April, 2011

The Tell-Tale Heart is an Edgar Allan Poe story in which the narrator kills an old man whose pale blue “vulture eye” bothers him inordinately. He worries about his own sanity, yet insists he must be quite sane since he carried out the murder with such care and precision, dismembering the body and hiding the pieces under the floorboards. The neighbours heard a scream in the night and called the police, but he gladly welcomes them and they find nothing amiss. Yet the beating of his own heart makes him believe the old man’s heart under the floor is still alive. This confirms his insanity, and he pulls up the floorboards, confessing to the crime.

Richard Suart as Edgar

Stewart Copeland’s wonderful adaptation of this story to the opera stage starts with the narrator — here called Edgar — in a straightjacket  that he then takes off to tell the story. Edgar was sung with excellent diction by Richard Suart, showing a calm sanity while hiding an interior insanity. This craziness was cleverly emphasised by having a shadow Edgar, sung by Richard Scrivens whose voice I heard echoing the real Edgar before seeing him appear darkly on stage while the real one was there in full view. Sneaking into the room to commit the murder is an important feature of the story and we see several slow silent attempts at night while the victim’s “vulture eye” is closed. The perpetrator’s mad idea is to close that eye forever, but he needs to see it open before committing the act, which he performs on a night when a ray of light wakens the eye.

In this production, directed by Jonathan Moore, the eye, both open and closed, is shown as a projection on the rear wall of the room, which functions as a stage within the stage. When the two policemen in their nineteenth century costumes enter the room with two neighbours, they search in a choreographically stylised manner, finding nothing, yet the music reveals the increasing sound of the tell-tale heart, until Edgar can stand it no more, and after his confession the police put him back in the straightjacket.

In 1977, Stewart Copeland was a founding member of The Police, a rock band in which he performed as drummer and percussionist, as well as doing vocals. His music in this opera rises from the bass, and its rhythmic intensity gives the story huge forward drive. It’s terrific — the music, the conception, the staging, everything works together to give a riveting and intense experience. Robert Ziegler’s conducting gave the necessary tension to the music, and this short opera was worth the whole price of the ticket.

The second item of the evening was a huge contrast. Terry Jones has created a Monty-Python-esque story called The Doctor’s Tale. Its earlier title was The Doctor is a Dog, a very accurate description of the story. A human looking dog, well sung and performed here by Darren Abrahams, is seeing patients, particularly those who “need a little love and attention”. We see a picture of his mother, and hear lines such as “They said they wouldn’t let her loose/ to wander round the town/ They said that she had cooked her goose,/ and then they put her down”. Towards the end the doctor meets his mother in doggy heaven where all these human dogs are endowed with angel wings. This is after he’s been put down himself, having been imprisoned with other dogs, one of was once a headmaster, who was found out to be a dog because he “slobbered and drooled”. Those who feel that a dog is a man’s best friend will love it, and I loved the start with the fun choreography where the dog and his patients do a one leg, other leg routine just as if they were in a Monty Python sketch.

The dog-doctor with his secretary

Terry Jones created the production using 1950s costumes along with floppy ears, tails and black noses for the dogs. The music by Anne Dudley, conducted by Tim Murray, had Kurt Weill qualities at some points but was far lighter than Stewart Copeland’s music for The Tell-Tale Heart. The audience obviously enjoyed the whole experience, which ended in doggy heaven with an outbreak of love.

Performances of this double bill continue to April 16 — for more details click here.

The Duenna, English Touring Opera [ETO], Royal Opera House Linbury Studio, October 2010

14 October, 2010

What fun this is! When I go to a comic opera I smile sometimes but towards the end of this romp, written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, I was laughing out loud. Actually it’s more Singspiel than opera, and none the worse for that. The music is delightful, written largely by Thomas Linley and his son Tom Linley, who wrote more of it than anyone else. Young Tom Linley was born the same year as Mozart (1756), but died in an accident when he was 22. He and Mozart met in 1770 and became friends, and as the music historian Charles Burney wrote that year about his travels in Italy, “The ‘Tommasino’, as he is called, and the little Mozart, are talked of all over Italy, as the most promising geniusses of this age.” The music for this charming comedy was written in 1775.

The story is full of misunderstandings and furious assertions of irrevocable decisions, but the essence of the plot is quite simple. The wealthy Don Jerome has a son and a daughter, Ferdinand and Louisa, who are in imminent danger of losing their lovers. One because her father is about to send her to a convent, and the other because Don Jerome rejects Louisa’s choice of the genteel but impoverished Antonio. He wants her to marry the dreadfully silly, but wealthy Isaac Mendosa. The Duenna is Louisa’s guardian in the household, but the two of them change places with hilarious results.

Richard Suart as Don Jerome was absolutely super. Assertive and irascible, he sang and spoke superbly. His diction was brilliant as was that of the whole cast. Nuala Willis as the Duenna was enormous fun, playing her part with relish, and Adrian Thompson as Isaac Mendoza gave an excellent portrayal of a wealthy by smug little twerp who thinks he’s frightfully cunning. Adam Tunnicliffe as the masquerader is on the stage much of the time, and his movements were delightful, helping the drama silently as if he were a single-person Greek chorus.

The Duenna and Don Jerome

The designs by Adam Wiltshire are glorious. The stage set-up with screens, and people appearing in frames to read letters they wrote, is really inspired. Marvellous lighting by Guy Hoare, all directed by Michael Barker-Caven, with the ETO Baroque Orchestra directed from the harpsichord by Joseph McHardy. It’s a pleasure to see English Touring Opera in London, and know that they will be taking this delightful production to other cities. It deserves to be a sell-out everywhere.

Two more performances at Covent Garden are scheduled for October 15 and 16 (matinee), after which it will tour to the following venues: Theatre Royal Bath, Oct 18 and 19; Malvern Theatres, Oct 22; De la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, Oct 27; Exeter Northcott, Oct 30; Cambridge Arts Theatre, Nov 4 and 5; Harrogate Theatre, Nov 8; Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Nov 27.