Review: The Gondoliers, by W S Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan, Opera della Luna, New Wolsey Theatre, May 9

The Gondoliers is the usual operatic mix of social satire and Gilbertian comedy followed by the inevitable happy outcome for all concerned. The plot is thin but then, no one goes to see G & S for the story line and luckily for the aficionados there is more music than dialogue.

The setting is Venice in 1750 where we got off to a crowded and busy start as an ensemble of contadine (young farm girls) bring white and red roses to give to Marco and Giuseppe Palmieri (Stephen Brown and Robert Gildon), two gondoliers who are seeking a wife. Being egalitarians they are blindfolded and profess to rely on impartial fate and select a girl at random. They pick Gianetta and Tessa (Lynsey Docherty and Maria Jones) but not before the other girls protest, ‘Are you peeping?’

Unknown to the newly weds, the Duke of Plaza Toro (Carl Sanderson), his Duchess (Kristin Finnigan) and their daughter Casilda (Victoria Joyce) arrive in Venice. Casilda had 20 years earlier been married by proxy to the infant Prince of Barataria who was abducted shortly afterwards. Circumstances suggest that either Marco or Giuseppe is the Prince, though no one knows which. Casilda had unfortunately fallen in love with her father’s drummer boy Luiz (Greg Castiglioni).

The piece was slow to get going and some of the wit was lost in the indistinct choral numbers and several jokes were only appreciated by those in the audience who knew the score. But from the moment the real Prince, now King, is revealed it took off and romped home to an enjoyable and merry conclusion.

Outstanding performances came from Greg Castiglioni and Kristin Finnigan while Carl Sanderson performed an amusing ‘I am a courtier’. Stephen Brown gave a very passable ‘Take a pair of sparkling eyes’. The company was augmented by local young performers mostly from the Ipswich area, all stars in the making.

Carol Twinch

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