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 décor 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.