HMS Pinafore, review of the English National Opera [STAR:4]

Opera song

HMS Pinafore, review of the English National Opera
4 HMS Pinafore, review of the English National Opera

Claudia pritchard

Overconfident, over-promoted and out of his depth, the central figure of fun in Gilbert and Sullivan HMS chasuble is known to all.

Politically weary audiences at English National Opera laugh knowingly when multi-talented singer, dancer and actor John Savournin in his warm-up number with comedian Les Dennis signals the derision to come. Dennis will play Sir Joseph Porter, a talented office boy turned good, now leader of the Royal Navy. Thank God, sighs Savournin, the days of cronyism are over …

Much is made of the artist’s translation of Family Fortune in the world of opera, but the joke is poor. As an otherwise funnier evening unfolds, it’s only her singing, even more despicable than promised, that drops an otherwise gorgeous cast. His exhaustion in the endless rehearsals of a closing trio, however, is hilarious.

Far from being exhausted, Savournin is one of the funniest men around. The talented director of Charles Court Opera, who also does brilliant G&S, is also a magnificent baritone. As Captain Corcoran, in command of the holder Apron, he struts and worries, proud of his enthusiastic crew, worried for his daughter on board.

Elgan Llŷr Thomas (in blue jacket) is an endearing Ralph Rackstraw. Photo: Mark Brennan

A marriage to Sir Joseph would uplift the family. But she has an eye on Common Sailor Ralph Rackstraw, beautifully sung by tenor Elgan Llŷr Thomas. If only someone knew there was more to the Ralph like Hugh Grant and less to the Right Corcoran than it seems… Spot the floating peddler Buttercup, who harbors a terrible secret, and who is sung with a rugged spirit by Hilary Summers.

That being Gilbert and Sullivan, we’re sure to have the happy ending we have more appetite for than ever these days. Along the way, wonderful music and lots of clever one-liners from WS Gilbert.

Director Cal McCrystal, returning to ENO after Iolanthe’s huge success on the Westminster set, is clearly committed to sprinkling the same fairy dust on this maritime comedy. With a lively design by takis and choreographer Lizzi Gee, it injects color and non-stop movement into a show longtime G&S enthusiasts like me will remember from the slow and laborious productions of yesteryear.

Chris Hopkins, with a dashing English National Opera orchestra, leads that spice from the pit, while on stage the spirited ENO choir and sumptuous soloists give it their all. But sometimes you can try too hard, and every now and then McCrystal drops the clever score of Arthur Sullivan and his singers.


Alexandra Oomens is sparkling in Josephine. Photo: Mark Brennan

He fears that a modern audience will not be won over by a sentimental song, and introduces some affairs with the Buttercup bloomers which pierce the first aria of the scintillating soprano Alexandra Oomens. Buttercup’s flop to the side also echoes a much bigger gag later. (Do you remember the jester who knows nothing? He will be back, in a highly recognizable form …)

McCrystal shakes Oomens again, in his second big number, with the worst intervention of all – an insulting parody of a former addict in the entourage of Sir Joseph’s sisters, cousins ​​and aunts. Bent over, trembling on a cane, always out of step, it’s scandalously ageist, as distracting as it is childish.

But the occasional rudeness and rawness aside, the polished second act in particular is musical and fun. There is the buffoon, a little fun with anagrams, and also a surprise: before the tender song of the Captain, which opens Act Two, a dance sequence that explains the invention of a boy of cabin. Its added lines are a mixed blessing, but this mini clog has plenty of fans on social media.

At nine years old, Rufus Bateman is already a veteran, appeared on television and on the West End stage. But most know him as an internet sensation whose tap dancing skills have brightened up the foreclosure world. In his ENO solo tour, he is joined by the indefatigable Savournin (who then immediately goes on to sing his big number) and a handful of sailors and relatives who warm his heart.


Les Dennis (left) as Sir Joseph Porter is no match for John Savournin’s Captain Corcoran. Photo: Mark Brennan

From now on, we for the Safe Haven of Happiness, and this is where we land. Have a nice trip to all who navigate this pocket Apron. Pull over now, if you can.


The performances will take place on October 30, November 6, 7, 12, 14, 17, 18, 20, 27 and 30; 3, 6, 9 and 11 Dec. There is a relaxed performance on Dec.


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