Pirates of Penzance, Norwich

CHARLES ROBERTS An evening, truly, to settle back and enjoy, as the rejuvenated Carl Rosa Opera – back in the operatic pantheon after many years of “resting” – creates an equally rejuvenated Pirates of Penzance.

CHARLES ROBERTS

An evening, truly, to settle back and enjoy, as the rejuvenated Carl Rosa Opera – back in the operatic pantheon after many years of “resting” – creates an equally rejuvenated Pirates of Penzance at the Theatre Royal, Norwich.

The production is a happy cocktail. There is authenticity of a century back, side by side with subtle little additions to sew the package effortlessly together; there is the music we know and love, enhanced by replaced passages to delight any keen Savoyard. Most of all, there is a plain love of the opera, its period, its humour, its distinctive musicality and, not least, its 19th century integrity.

Under Peter Mulloy's lovingly detailed direction, the spirit is warmly traditional, and if one or two old D'Oyly Carte visual jokes have gone, Mr Mulloy wittily makes up for them.


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For example, when our doughty hero Frederic takes dashing Mabel behind a beach tent for their first lovers' kiss, Frederic goes in like a frightened schoolboy – and emerges strutting his stuff like a confident Don Juan. A delicious cameo.

The whole visual presentation is stunning, with splendid sets, particularly fine lighting and costumes radiating Victorian style. Musically, conductor Richard Balcombe and his orchestra maintain a clarity of line and momentum which is partnered on stage.

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Henry Moss as Frederic is pleasingly youthful in voice and personality; with Kathleen Tynan as his Mabel carrying the role with panache, though having to work hard to maintain those Italian flourishes with which her music is so richly invested.

Simon Butteriss is straight out of the Gilbertian mould as the Major General (with a super little directorial surprise to place him in character); and as those two Savoyard icons, the Pirate King and the Sergeant of Police, Gareth Jones and Bruce Graham give us all the bravura comedy we anticipate.

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