PATIENCEEnglish Touring Opera at the Theatre Royal, Norwich
This sparkling G&S ends its tour here in Norwich, with its 21st performance.
A real treat to see the piece so well revived. The score is one of Sullivan's most musical, and Gilbert's none-too-subtle satire on Aestheticism gives the designer [Florence de Maré] a chance to reference William Morris in a stylish set which incorporates a slightly awkward flight of steps and arcades affording a glimpse of statuary.
The Saturday night audience revel in the comedy, and the excellent singing, especially some of the ensemble work, like the Act Two dragoon trio and the lively quintet which follows it.
Director/Choreographer Liam Steel has a fine young cast to work with, led by Australian soprano Lauren Zolezzi as the innocent milkmaid of the title. She's unaware of her allure, and her strength, carting churns and a stone plinth with practised ease.
For this farewell performance, Susan Moore replaced Valerie Reid as the doughty Lady Jane. Her “rugged old bosom” harbours a splendid traditional contralto, and she makes a great job of her solo, accompanying herself not on a cello, but on a double bass whose generous curves echo her own.
Aled Hall is an amusingly despondent Duke, with Jan Capinski and Andrew Slater as his fellow officers. The rival poets are Bradley Travis (Bunthorne) and Ross Ramgobin (Grosvenor), accomplished comedians both, with an outstanding patter duet: "A most intense young man, A soulful-eyed young man, An ultra-poetical, super-æsthetical, Out-of-the-way young man". Travis is a superbly narcissistic, angular, fleshly poet, Ramgobin the picturesque man of property, idyllic poet and rich-timbred baritone, using his Grecian urn for the lottery, and having his flowing Darcy shirt ripped off him by “several” lovesick maidens.
The music is very well served by a pit orchestra under Timothy Burke; the bright, crisp sound lets Gilbert's every word be clearly heard - even the choruses - so that we were left wondering if we really needed the surtitle screens.