The Yeomen of the Guard at ENO evaluation: intermittently profitable

The Yeomen of the Guard at ENO evaluation: intermittently profitable


t’s a tough time for English Nationwide Opera. Some commentators counsel that the corporate ought to go away its cherished residence on the London Coliseum and relocate to someplace smaller; others surprise if London even wants a second opera home: isn’t the Royal Opera Home sufficient? If I dominated the world, I’d say, “No” to each options, however extra worrying is an imminent Arts Council England determination about ENO’s future grant prospects, that are removed from rosy.

For now, a minimum of, the present should go on, and when a present is required, ENO usually turns to Gilbert and Sullivan. The Yeomen of the Guard, premiered in 1888, now joins an extended checklist of ENO productions courting again a minimum of so far as Jonathan Miller’s celebrated 1985 staging of The Mikado. G&S favored an unique setting they usually put Yeomen within the sixteenth century, a conceit which cramps Gilbert’s verbal type, and that in flip inhibits Sullivan’s music.

The plot isn’t wanting the required absurdities: Colonel Fairfax is falsely imprisoned within the Tower of London as a spy; in an hour’s time, he will likely be hanged. Phoebe, daughter of one of many Yeomen, thinks she’s in love with him and cooks up a rescue plot; she succeeds, however finds that his affections are targeted on Elsie, a passing road entertainer. One way or the other or different, it comes out proper, type of, ultimately.

©Tristram Kenton

ENO’s manufacturing, in Anthony Ward’s relatively lumbering designs, is staged by Jo Davies, who, with choreographer Kay Shepherd works onerous to inject a little bit of Broadway flamboyance. Conductor Chris Hopkins makes positive that the ENO orchestra gives its full assist, however success is barely intermittent. Davies relocates the motion to the mid-Twentieth century, and he or she’s made free with Gilbert’s textual content.

A few of her amendments are laboured: do we’d like extra jokes about Brexit, simply to indicate how on-message opera could be? Others are intelligent, equivalent to an ensemble quantity that just about out-patters Gilbert. If something, the present may very well be extra irreverent, extra boisterous. Shorter wouldn’t be unhealthy both: the stilted spoken dialogue could be improved by some swingeing cuts.

Musically issues work higher. As Fairfax, the hero, Anthony Gregory’s tenor is ardent however sometimes strained, whereas Richard McCabe’s comedian flip as a worn-out jester-turned-hustler – assume George Cole in The Belles of St Trinians – goes out and in of focus.

The ladies fare finest: because the jail governor, Susan Bickley places her resonant mezzo-soprano voice to good comedic use, whereas Heather Lowe’s Phoebe is brightly sung however considerably over-acted. Essentially the most profitable characterisation, each vocal and dramatic, comes from Alexandra Oomens within the position of Elsie, pert and clear as a bell, simply as Gilbert and Sullivan would have wished.

London Coliseum, to December 2;

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