Featuring classic songs and witty, sparkling dialogue, HMS Pinafore has become one of the most-loved and endearing shows ever written.
This production has had an unusual evolution. The shortened version of HMS Pinafore was first commissioned by the Concordia Theatre Company for performance aboard the QE2 in 1987. It was originally exactly 60 minutes long. The production was then revived for the Covent Garden Festival in 2000, and again in 2001, when we put back 15 minutes of the original, but still performed the show without an interval. In preparing now to present the show as a full evening’s entertainment, with interval, we have decided, rather than return to the original 1879 version and put back all the cuts, to preserve our streamlined version as its core and to add a new interpolated opening and closing sequence. Whilst this will no doubt offend the purists, we believe it enables the tale to be told in our own distinctive energetic style – and of course allows for judicious re-arrangement of the chorus material.
What makes this production work so well is its concise, authentic insistence on the underlying sting in the parody.
An evening to remember: full invention and fun.
The most dedicated purist could hardly fail to find this a real treat. I suspect that from their seat in the Gods G&S are fiercely applauding Opera della Luna’s version of this favourite operetta.
This small scale version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera was first performed on the QE2 in 1997. As part of the Covent Garden Festival it came to the Embankment, where President (built in 1908) is moored. The large saloon makes a god performance space, the audience was seated on three sides, with the singers on a narrow stage, the orchestra, directed by Jeff Clarke on keyboard, seated at the back. Nigel Howard’s painted scenery, showing various nautical scenes, was pinned to the walls. The success of any G&S performance lies not just in the singing and playing, but in the sincerity with which the actors tell the story. Carl Sanderson was a convincing Captain Corcoran, and Rebecca Knight a charming, clear-toned Josephine. She also made a brief appearance at the beginning of the evening as one of the sailors. Graham Hoadly doubled as Dick Deadeye and Sir Joseph’s aunt, quite a feat. As a ruler of the Queen’s Navy, David Timson had the most authentic Gilbertian delivery. Julia Goss was a Buttercup in the tradition of Bertha Lewis.
What makes this production work so well is its concise, authentic insistence on the underlying sting in the parody. Jeff Clarke in his programme note calls Pinafore the most Dickensian of the G&S pieces. “It seems to me that HMS Pinafore belongs more than any other G&S opera to its time and is rooted in its author’s preoccupation – like Dickens’s – with social injustice.