Phoenix Opera, Norwich

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Under Patricia Clouting's baton, Phoenix Opera first fluttered down to London for entertaining comedy and then soared to tragic heights in southern Italy.

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Under Patricia Clouting's baton, Phoenix Opera first fluttered down to London for entertaining comedy and then soared to tragic heights in southern Italy.

Tunefulness and deft parody were sure signs of Sullivan's early hand in Cox and Box, a tale of men at sixes and sevens at breakfast time.

The light-hearted nonsense of S C Burnand's text came across all the better, thanks to the excellent diction of Alan Weyman, and Christopher Speake and Colin Thackery provided plenty of support in speech, song and dance.

Leon Cavallo's Pagliacci, with the same principals, plus Pip Jenkinson and Christopher Steed, was, of course, altogether sterner stuff.

But once again the great virtue of clarity paid dividends in the grim tale, and the orchestra, like the chorus, contributed to the drama with telling detail.

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Although there were loose ends, action and music knitted to convey the sense of a powerful work that no touring company has brought here for decades.

t Phoenix Opera were performing at St Gregory's Arts Centre.