H.M.S. Pinafore

H.M.S. Pinafore
By Gilbert and Sullivan. Melbourne Opera. Director: Robert Ray. Conductor: Greg Hocking. Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne, March 14 – 18, 2017 and Monash University’s Robert Blackwood Hall, April 22.

Melbourne Opera stepped out of their comfort zone in presenting a G&S operetta. However, they employed one of the most experienced G&S directors and a number of music theatre professionals to make for an enjoyable production.

Robert Ray’s approach was traditional, but with some neat twists. He included a recently discovered duet for the Captain and Josephine, “Reflect My Child”, though it didn’t seem as musically inspired as the rest of the score.

The big surprise for me was David Gould as Sir Joseph Porter. Employing an operatic bass in a role usually played by a light character baritone seemed a strange choice, but he triumphed magnificently. With no tongue-twisters for him to sing, his rich voice gave the elderly character a gravitas not usually seen. He was also very funny. He was given an extra couple of verses of the trio “Never Mind the Why and Wherefore” which were topical and hilarious.

Casting tenor David Rogers-Smith in the baritone role of the Captain was another unusual choice.  The role sat rather low for him so that he spoke some lines. However, his malleable face and wonderful comic timing were a constant delight, and his second act aria was beautifully sung.

Music theatre practitioner Claire Lyon was a delightful Josephine, torn between doing what she wanted to do and should do. At the end of her second aria she seemed to miss the penultimate top note, but then went up to an impressive top Eb! Andrea Creighton was a strong and funny Buttercup, looking far too young to have been the Captain’s nurse.

Young Paul Biencourt, who should have been the same age as Josephine’s father, displayed a clean tenor and found many more comic moments than I expected from a romantic lead, with a wonderful broad northern English accent. Roger Howell was a strong Dick Deadeye.

The chorus, particularly the male chorus, sang well, though some of the choreography was a little wayward. Greg Hocking kept up a brisk tempo and the orchestra played well.

There was much to enjoy in this departure from Melbourne Opera’s usual fare.

Graham Ford

Photographwer: Robin Halls.

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