Caitlin Dickinson enjoys a first-class and innovative performance of ‘The Gondoliers’ by Gilbert and Sullivan society

Written by Caitlin Dickinson
English Literature BA Undergraduate and Redbrick Food&Drink Editor.
Last updated

As a first-time spectator for a Gilbert and Sullivan Society performance I did not know what to expect. However, the prospect of watching ‘The Gondoliers’ is certainly the best place to start as it showcases the best of what Gilbert and Sullivan have to offer.

‘The Gondoliers’ is a lighter opera which involves the story of a fictional kingdom of Barataria. The kingdom needs a King to rule, however the two prospective heirs to the throne have been mixed up at birth by a drunken gondolier; one of which is his own son. To make matters more complicated one of the heirs to the throne has already been betrothed at birth to a young bride from another family, but when she arrives to wed her husband, she discovers they are already recently married to local girls. To determine the rightful King of Barataria their wet nurse has to name the heir to the throne. 

it flowed effortlessly together as a new twist on the performance

Although the plot line may seem heavy and complicated, G&S put a contemporary twist on the action. In order to make the opera more accessible to a contemporary audience, the action was set in ITV studios as part of a blind date show with C-List celebrities and fangirls.

This abstract idea may seem jarring when placed with the opera, yet it flowed effortlessly together as a new twist on the performance. This enabled the show to open with a star studded background, set in a TV studio, which then travelled backstage and around Barataria with all the characters

The show was guided by the Donna Alhambra del Bolero, who is traditionally played by a male, but in this instance, was played by a female (Hattie Pinches).

The performance she gave in shaping the entire opera was masterfully done. As a dynamic figure who was both comedic, dramatic whilst singing along the way gave the performance the depth and humour to make it accessible for the entire audience. The role of Donna Alhambra for me was thoroughly entertaining and kept me enticed until the end of the performance, especially with the songs ‘But, Bless My Heart’ and ‘Try We Life-Long’ which were performed excellently.

The show featured some lighter comedic parts that were injected in-between the heavier operatic songs. The Duke of Plaza-Toro, whom is a grandee of Spain and comic baritone, was played by Daniel Gray. The character, through both appearance and stage presence gave a whole new element of humour to the opera. Daniel was playing an older, idiotic and C-Class celebrity who spent the show priding himself on wanting to make his daughter the Queen of Barataria through tacky TV. In his character, Daniel was able to perform in a superb manner the strong vocals of the songs ‘From the Sunny Spanish Shore’ and ‘To Help Unhappy Commoners’. It was impressive to see his voice carry through the whole audience and work the lyrics and music into his comedic character. 

I will certainly be attending a Gilbert and Sullivan performance again

It would be unjust of me not to mention the excellent chorus and orchestra that were featured throughout the show. The skill and first-class quality of the chorus and musical orchestra is highly commendable considering the complexity of the music and vocals that the show has to offer. I would be delighted to watch another of Gilbert and Sullivan performances considering the quality and entertainment value that they have to offer. I will certainly be attending again in the upcoming year.