Friday, February 01, 2013



English National Opera at the Coliseum


Twenty-six years since this stunning visual delight first hit the Coliseum stage. Catching it again this week, I'm pleased to report that it's lost none of its idiosyncratic charm; the fruits of Jonathan Miller's polymath fancy still come up fresh and witty.

Even before we see the gorgeous 30s d├ęcor in black, white and cream, it's clear we're in for a treat: the ENO house band, under David Parry, give the overture a sparkling performance.

This umpteenth revival is in the safest of Savoyard hands. Richard Suart, whose 13th different revival this is, is on fine form as Koko, a sporty, sneaky politician [his Little List hustings name-checked Russell Crowe and "religious misogynists", amongst many other victims], who never lets us forget his plebeian roots. Seasoned Scottish Poohbah Donald Maxwell – "born sneering" – is a strong presence, and Yvonne Howard, though far too glamorous for the awful Katisha, sang her parlour song beautifully, accompanied by a new, unheard character, her pilot/ pianist/PA/passionate admirer [David Newman].

Loved David Stour's dour northern bore of a Pish-Tush, too, and Mark Richardson deputised gracefully for the Mikado of Richard Angas [who created the role in the first Miller outing].

Mary Bevan was a charming Yum-Yum, though her pleasingly mature vocal quality rather belied her schoolgirl looks – her jolly second-trombone suitors was Robert Murray, who gave us a lovely Wandering Minstrel.

And let's not forget the chorus [the men superb in their opening "Gentlemen of Japan", the women in an impressive coiffure curve at the top of Act II] and the domestic staff of this grand hotel, the dancers who tap their way into the Act I finale to such splendid effect.

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