A FIRST-TIMER wanting an opener into Gilbert & Sullivan’s topsy-turvy world of comic opera need look no further than this blowsy affair from Opera North.
Once their lightness of touch eases you in, the company goes all-out for a fresh, imaginative take on a story that’s plainly spelled out - quite literally, at the beginning, on a screen with silent film-style captions.
You might be taken aback by the colourful hullabaloo which follows - especially if you’ve come straight from a sedate day at the office - but you’ll soon get the measure of the tangled love tryst, played out in the style of Victorian melodrama, involving Rose Maybud, a stickler for etiquette, and Robin Oakapple who’s actually Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, rightful heir to the curse of Ruddigore which requires him to commit a crime a day to save himself from death and appease his ancestral ghosts - and apparently to wear a swishing cape.
It hardly matters what you miss in those wonderfully clever quick-fire lyrics as older brother Despard (Richard Burkhard), lovelorn Dick (Hal Cazalet) and spinster Hannah (South Shields-born Anne-Marie Owens) are pitched into the mix.
It’s the usual superior show from Opera North with quality costumes, great sets and top-notch singing from a cast led by Amy Freston as Rose and Grant Doyle as Robin/Ruthven, who finds a life of crime doesn’t come easily.
Nor does romantic harmony in G&S’s typically chaotic world which is so well captured here, especially in the castle’s atmospheric picture gallery where the ancestral portraits come alive and ghosts from different eras emerge as if a jumble of dressing-up costumes have been tossed in a bag, given a vigorous shake and turfed out on to the stage.
The production, which is making a swift return visit after scooping up rave reviews last year, can be seen tonight. The Queen of Spades tomorrow and Madama Butterfly on Saturday make up the rest of the bill.