Operetta Research Center
28 July, 2021
The various ‘lockdowns’ that we, in the UK, have lived under for the last 18 months have meant that several productions of operetta, that were planned, have now been rescheduled for performance between August 2021 and Spring 2022.
The first of these is the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera festival taking place in the spa towns of Buxton and Harrogate during the first three weeks of August, including professional productions of several of the G&S canon, as well as master classes, recitals and informal lectures. I hope to review these in a future article.
Then in early September comes Jeff Clarke’s ever inventive Opera della Luna company who are presenting Burnand and Sullivan’s Cox and Box, first performed at “The Gallery of Illustration” in 1867 and concerning an unscrupulous landlord (obviously a bass) who rents his room out to one tenant by day and another by night. Everything proceeds smoothly until one of them is given the day off. The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company used to stage an abridged version as a curtain raiser to The Pirates of Penzance, but the complete version, nearly 60 minutes in length, has rarely been performed.
Cox and Box is partnered with Offenbach’s witty Les Deux Aveugles (The Two Blind Beggars) in a new translation by Jeff Clarke, also rarely staged in the UK. These are both being presented at Wilton’s Music Hall in East London, a must-see venue, as it is one of the few remaining music halls and is in as original condition as possible – it has not even been repainted, which can be quite a shock on entry!
In November, Opera South East, an amateur company that uses professional soloists and orchestra is also mounting something unusual: Offenbach’s La Princesse de Trebizonde, which in the 1870s and 1880s was probably Offenbach’s most popular work in London and ‘the provinces’, being given several successful productions before being almost completely forgotten.
ORCA published a history of the work and its productions by Kurt Gänzl, and I reviewed an enchanting production by stage director Max Hopp and conductor Adam Benzwi at Hildesheim in 2019. (Click here for the review.)
One can hope that Opera South East’s production in November 2021, in English, is as witty and stylish. It is being performed in Eastbourne, Sevenoaks, Danehill (!), Hove and the Royal College of Music, London and is conducted by Toby Purser who also waved the stick for the company’s most recent production La belle Hélène.
Not to be outdone, Scottish Opera is staging Kurt Weill’s The Tsar has his Photograph Taken in August 2021, following this in March and April 2022 with a major revival of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers and concert performances of the hardly ever heard Utopia Ltd. Whilst most of the dates are, naturally, in Scotland, the company also visits Frank Matcham’s sumptuously designed Hackney Empire in London for a week.
Something probably to be avoided (though I am biased having seen and loathed his production of Iolanthe – see ORCA February 2018) is Cal McCrystal’s new staging of HMS Pinafore with Les Dennis, a British stand-up comedian, as Sir Joseph Porter, for English National Opera at the London Coliseum in the final few months of 2021 – Covid variants permitting, of course!!
All in all, this is more operetta than has been seen in the UK for a very long time. Long may it last!