Tag Archives: Gilbert and Sullivan

The Mikado (Gilbert and Sullivan)

W.A. Opera Company and Chorus

W.A.Symphony Orchestra

Supreme Court Gardens

reviewed by Neville Cohn

Over the years, Perth City Council’s operatic gift to the people has become a much anticipated annual event. Thousands turn out for the production including many children, for many of whom it would have been a very first encounter with  live opera – and in a most agreeable environment, too. Invariably, it’s a happy night out with most patrons arriving carrying picnic hampers for dining under the stars.


As a rule, the works presented fall under the banner of ‘grand opera’ – Madame Butterfly and La Traviata, for instance.


This year, for the first time, it was Gilbert & Sullivan on offer. I wondered how attractive this very idiosyncratic type of operetta would prove to be in the open air. I need not have been concerned: I cannot readily recall a bigger turn out for such an event nor such warm applause.


Diction is absolutely crucial here; without the clearest enunciation of words, the entire enterprise can collapse in an embarrassing heap. As a backup – and not really needed because diction for the most part was exemplary – there were excellent English subtitles flashed on to screens on either side of the stage as well as to the sides of the main audience area.


There were no weak links in the cast which, I am sure, would have won the approval of both the creative geniuses who brought this tieless comic romp into being.


I was particularly impressed by Andrew Foote. I cannot readily recall hearing this fine musician to better effect, producing, as he did, an unfailingly mellow stream of finely phrased tone. And Sarah-Janet Dougiamas was vocally in fine fettle as the vinegary Katisha, coming across as the ultimate scold, wagging her finger indignantly at whoever happened to be the focus of her grumpiness.  Robert Hofmann, too, quite rightly earned warm applause for his amusing presentation of the famous Little List aria. It was one of the comic highlights of the evening, not least for its up-to-the-minute arrows aimed at Perth institutions which elicited delighted chuckles.


Amanda Barrett Hayes, as director, did much to ensure a production that was as agreeable on the eye as the ear. Her deployment of a large cast was consistently imaginative. Bouquets to the W.A. Opera Chorus for consistently disciplined singing. This was a highlight. As well, the W.A.Symphony Orchestra responded in the most disciplined way to David Wickham’s direction, resulting in constantly workable tempi and a most agreeable buoyancy of both momentum and mood. Bravo!

The Mikado (Gilbert and Sullivan)

The Mikado (Gilbert and Sullivan)



Royal Carl Rosa Opera Company
Regal Theatre

reviewed by Edmund Percy


What unalloyed pleasure it was, for once, to experience a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta devoid of the ‘improvements’ visited upon it since copyright expired, thus allowing producers a free hand to ‘interpret’ the work in any way they think fit. This production of The Mikado is a reversal of that trend, a lovingly fashioned presentation which makes use of Gilbert’s original prompt book to get as close to authenticity as possible. By today’s standards, where high tech know-how enables producers to create lavish effects undreamed of by G & S, Carl Rosa’s 2 & S makes use of – by today’s standards – modest décor in a deliberately old-fashioned way. Scenery, recreated from old photographs of an early production, is of the cardboard cutout sort. Entrances and exits are, to modern eyes, rather unimaginative with most of the protagonists coming on stage from centre-rear. Costumes, though, are uniformly magnificent – and the singers they clothe are, for the most part, splendid interpreters of both words and music.

There are no weak links in this production. It would be more accurate, perhaps, to suggest that the players bring varying levels of excellence to their efforts, with star of the production unquestionably Simon Butteriss. As the ridiculous Koko, he brings the house down, generating a kind of theatrical electricity as he romps about the stage. His cavortings and malleable face which mirrors a comic range of expressions, are frankly inspired; in years, I cannot recall enjoying a G & S portrayal as much as this. The cast’s women are exceptional, too, whether in solo roles or in ensemble, whether as “three little maids from school” or the larger chorus, all a model of what synchronised singing is all about, with the clearest of diction – absolutely essential if Gilbert’s razor-sharp wit is to be savoured to the full – and a faultless feel for style..

The obligatory love interest is provided by Ivan Sharpe and Marianne Hellgren who both bring a winning sense of innocence to their characterisations as Nanki Poo and Yum Yum. Another scene stealer is Nuala Willis as Katisha, long on the shelf and desperate to marry, if not Nanki Poo (her prime target) then anyone else. There is artistry and to spare in bringing the role to life, some vocal weakness notwithstanding, a characterisation fleshed out by a repertoire of facial expressions (ranging from astonished outrage to horror) that might rival those of Marcel Marceau.Peter Ellis, known to an enormous international TV audience as Chief Superintendent Brownlow in The Bill, is here another bigwig – the Mikado himself. But for all the skill brought to bear on the role, Ellis seemed not quite at home in this pseudo-Nipponese incarnation. Then, too, he is so inextricably linked to his Bill role that it was difficult to view him as any other than the Chief Superintendent playing at G & S.

So many of the ingredients crucial for success in music theatre terms – production, casting, vocal and instrumental ability as well as spot-on evocation of mood – were here in secure equipoise. A delightful production.

COPYRIGHT © September 2001 ­ Edmund Percy