Yesterday afternoon’s concert at the Royal Festival Hall was Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera ‘The Yeoman of the Guard’, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by John Wilson. Wilson is best known for his recreation of popular musical film scores from the Golden Age of Hollywood and has presented a number of concerts with this music, and at least one previous semi-staged production, that of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’.
Another review of ‘Yeoman’ I have just read praises the production for not using microphones, but, as someone with a cheaper ticket two thirds back in the stalls, I can report that many of the singers were unintelligible, with the subsequent loss of the wit, humour and wordplay of Gilbert’s lyrics. As this wordplay is particularly key to the enjoyment of the G&S oeuvre, the decision not to use microphones was a great shame.
However, some of the vocalists did transcend the amplification issues – Oliver White as Colonel Fairfax, Jill Pert as Dame Carruthers, Heather Shipp as Phoebe, Richard Angas as Shadbolt. But Sarah Fox as Elsie disappointed from a distance, and Simon Butteriss’s tragicomic turn as Jack Point was lost in places. Having said this the score was rendered superbly by the Philharmonia, and the afternoon was enjoyable. I just wish that everyone in the hall had been considered when the decision not to use amplification for the singers was taken.
The story is one of changed identities, broken promises, and comic situations. In its semi-staged form the plot is easy to follow and the songs are well-written and move the story along with some energy. Wilson’s conducting of the orchestra was also done with fun and pep, which served the material well.