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Review: HMS PINAFORE, Opera Holland Park

Joyful production of an old favourite sung with great heart and no little skill

Review: HMS PINAFORE, Opera Holland Park Review: HMS PINAFORE, Opera Holland Park One of the many handy aspects of programming a season - indeed, of attending one - is the opportunity to mix and match a little, to challenge and to comfort one's audience, to offer a little stroking along with the spiking.

So the last time your reviewer was at Opera Holland Park, he saw the UK premiere of Little Women, a 1999 work that may not have been too harsh on the ear, but demanded that we meet it halfway, so to speak. This time, it's an evening gently bobbing up and down on the good ship HMS Pinafore.

I wondered how many in the house were seeing Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera of class, duty and mixed identities for the first time - a tiny minority would be my guess. The rest of us sat back as conductor, David Eaton, fired up the City of London Sinfonia and the overture of familiar tunes rolled out on the most blissful of summer evenings. There'll be dark days (in every sense) to come soon, so why not wrap oneself in such comforts while we still can?

This show is a co-production between the hosts and the Charles Court Opera company, once found above pubs excavating the heart and soul of the Gilbert and Sullivan canon for audiences counted in double figures, but now as likely to be working in venues like this one. CCO's artistic director, John Savournin (who directs this Pinafore) has never lost sight of the humour - no, it's not exactly that, it's the joy - of both the source material and the performances he brings out of his cast, led, as ever, by his own example. It's all such fun!

Savournin plays Captain Corcoran, the genial commanding officer of HMS Pinafore, a decent cove even if he is a little too keen on social stratification. He gets excellent support from a cast whose singing is uniformly top drawer, Lucy Schaufer a warm, flirtatious Buttercup, Nicholas Crawley a villainously mean Dick Deadeye and Richard Burkhard as funny as his wig as the puffed up Sir Joseph Porter. Wonderful work too from the chorus as his sisters and his cousins and his aunts (and the jolly tars too).

Peter Kirk and Llio Evans steal the show as the ill-matched once, then ill-matched a second time lovers across the class boundaries, Ralph and Josephine, both singing magnificently in a venue that can be tricky.

It's important that, amidst the chaos of the preposterous plot, we believe in the stakes for the two young people (like most G&S, the spectre of a The Two Ronnies' closing set-piece is never far away) and their acting and singing provides that necessary dramatic heft. As ever at Opera Holland Park, you can pay a lot more money five miles or so to the east at houses with a better roof, but not better singers.

So if the set is a little rudimentary, the chairs a little hit and miss (but environmentally friendly and as eccentric as G&S themselves) and the chill always likely to intrude once the sun drops over the horizon - well, you're not here for that stuff are you? What makes the trek worthwhile is what always makes a trip to the opera worthwhile - beautiful music, beautifully sung in a beautiful environment. Lovely!

HMS Pinafore is at Opera Holland Park until 13 August

Photo Credit: Ali Wright

From This Author - Gary Naylor

Gary Naylor is chief London reviewer for BroadwayWorld ( and feels privileged to... (read more about this author)

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