Scottish Opera and D'Oyly Carte Opera collaboration on tour.
I first saw The Mikado back when I was 10 (D'Oyly Carte, Wimbledon, 1965) though by then I knew all the big songs from playing the LP repeatedly. So you could say I was a bit of a fan. Over the years I have become less enamoured and saw a D'Oyly Carte production at the RFH that really turned me off just over a dozen years ago. So it was with a little trepidation that I came to this new co-production.
To be honest, my reaction was a bit mixed. I found the first half somewhat lack lustre. The set and costumes were great but the choreography and direction lacked invention and felt rather plodding. Too often we were presented with a straight line of singers across the stage and simple movement instead of "dance". I know that operetta is a style but this is a new production and I expected a bit more oomph ... if you're going to can-can then why not give it some welly!
There were some great moments (I'll brush over the pre-show) and I particularly liked the "Gentlemen of Japan" though they made a bit of a mockery of the idea that there hadn't been an execution for a while - still it was funny and well done. A quick note on the chorus - it is huge in true opera company style and sometimes they looked a bit cramped on the restrictive set but they played their part(s) with gusto enough.
Richard Stuart's KoKo is quite delightful. With a spoken delivery that reminded me of Bill Nighy (with flashes of Franky Howard) he brought out plenty of the humour - his "Tit Willow" being a particular highlight. Rebecca Bottone's Yum-Yum was a squealy delight and her lovely voice rising above the tenors and basses and lifting the production.
Curiously I'm not sure about the use of sur-titles in operetta - a lot of the joy of a G&S is in the words and if they are not being delivered clearly enough to be understood then something is perhaps awry. The Scottish Opera Orchestra were terrific, managing a rich, deep, vibrant sound perfectly balanced with the voices under the baton of David Steadman.
The second half seemed to bowl along a bit better and had an altogether more polished feel with some lovely comic moments but still those straight lines and that over simplified choreography left me feeling that there could have been more here. I'm beginning to think that G&S might be better put into the hands of musical theatre rather than opera ... or perhaps just left to the many talented operatic societies that already do it justice around the UK. Just my 4p worth ....