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August 20, 2012

Prom 49: The Yeoman of the Guard

By Spear's

In this year of Jubilee celebrations and glorious Olympic success, what better choice of operetta than The Yeoman of the Guard by Gilbert and Sullivan, set in the Tower of London, says Melinda Hughes

In this year of Jubilee celebrations and glorious Olympic success, what better choice of operetta than The Yeoman of the Guard by Gilbert and Sullivan, set in the Tower of London. The Proms went all out this evening to present a staged and costumed production that was an unexpected delight. This was written late in Gilbert and Sullivan’s career and one can hear the darkness and grandeur in the music. There are less manic patter songs and more arch themes, a symphonic overture and operatic drama. Sullivan’s maturity as a composer had brought conflict as he was becoming more and more resentful of his fate as a mere operetta composer.

Tonight’s performance, conducted by Jane Glover oversaw the BBC Concert Orchestra and BBC singers as well as the crème of British soloists who managed to get all their classic lines across with superb diction and clarity given the notoriously difficult resonance of the Royal Albert Hall.

Heather Shipp who sang Pheobe had a rich tone, superb diction and great comic timing. Her father Sergeant Meryll sung by Mark Richardson held the arch of the operetta and his relationship with our very own Dame Felicity Palmer was lots of fun. Palmer was very RSC and her maturity and sage delivery of lines was infectious. Mark Stone, who has a baritone voice of satin, was a terrifically fun Jack Point and together with the superb Lisa Milne as Elsie, they did quite a bit of scene stealing. It was a hilarious paring of two singers whom I’m already a great fan of. Stone’s patter song was a tour de force and Milne’s beautiful rendition of Though tear and long-drawn sigh was stunning. Their parting duet at the end was so touchingly delivered.

Andrew Kennedy was a wonderfully convincing Colonel Fairfax and together with Tom Randle as Leonard Meryll, we were spoilt with lovely tenors. The ensembles were together and very musical and the a cappella quartet Strange adventure gave us a chance to hear the angelic crystal soprano voice of Mary Bevan who, although she had a small role, certainly stood out vocally. It was classy singing indeed. There was a little nod to Morecambe and Wise in Wilfred and Point’s duet, which went down well, and the simple yet effective direction by Martin Duncan really worked in this space.

There’s only a couple more weeks of the Proms left so do try to go to a concert, particularly in the wake of our Olympic success and unusual British positivity. Come September 10th it will be back to moaning cabbies, perpetual rain and a triple dip recession so grab the Proms spirit while you can.
Read more by Melinda Hughes

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