21st February 2018
Blackburn G & S Society
Thwaites Empire Theatre
Type of Production
Author: Christine Hunter Hughes
The Gondoliers is the 12th opera in the canon and was, in its time, the 5th longest running piece of musical theatre in history and is generally viewed as a bright, cheerful and happy show and was their last great success. Gilbert returns to satirising class distinctions and mix-ups at birth, or soon after! It has the longest continuous musical opening – some 15 minutes – to give Sullivan the opportunity to set the mood of the whole opera with Italian dance rhythms and catchy tunes.
The orchestra were sited on stage for this production and were appropriately costumed for the production. From the opening notes of the overture we knew we were in for a treat as the orchestra, which was excellent, moved at a superb pace, with some lovely crisp rhythms, and a near perfect sound balance between singers and orchestra. There was some action during the overture which normally from a personal point of view I prefer not to see as it really is the orchestras opportunity to shine, however in this instance it was exactly the right thing to do as I suspect an empty stage with just the orchestra at the back may have looked more than a little strange.
Naturally, having the orchestra on the stage did reduce the playing area, which I felt resulted in the production presenting as slightly more static than is normal for this particular show, although for most of the time I felt this was more of a benefit than a detriment. As well as the excellent sound balance a further real advantage was that in order to see the MD the cast had to look up to a screen, sited on the front of the balcony, so heads were up and we were able to see faces and therefore facial expressions easily.
There were some excellent touches with the set and I particularly liked use of the gondola to bring some members of the cast on and off the stage, and the musically mentioned flowers in the opening worked well too.
There were some wonderful comedic moments throughout the evening, and some really good characterisations across the whole cast - I loved the Duchess and her Gin bottles in a plastic bag, (but then I would!) in all seriousness the ducal party was excellent, with some excellent characterisations and believable relationships, and plenty of humour along the way. Every possible moment of humour was brought out and on occasions successfully embellished. The singing across the whole cast chorus and principals alike was generally good, with some rousing choruses and lovely expressive moments within the duets, quartets and quintets.
All in all a most entertaining and enjoyable evening and I most sincerely thank the entire company, cast, crew, orchestra and production team for an entertaining and enjoyable evening – and, of course, keeping the works of Gilbert and Sullivan alive, well and most importantly visable – Thank you!