Pop-Up Opera

A Little Bit of The Gondoliers

Albert Halls, Stirling

Keith Bruce

four stars

ALTHOUGH the short run of Scottish Opera’s trail-blazing outdoors COVID-era Boheme in Glasgow has ended, the company is still setting the pace in Scotland with real live performances for present audiences. Alongside the new work of Karen MacIver’s The Song of the Clyde, the company’s Head of Music Derek Clark has created two of his condensed versions of familiar repertoire to play from the back of an articulated trailer, with just two singers and two instrumentalists, guitarist Sasha Savaloni and cellist Andrew Drummond Huggan. Both are tales from Venice, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, which was scheduled to have a full touring production before the pandemic struck.

If Puccini’s tale of starving artists abbreviated well for the more lavishly-produced show at Port Dundas, story-teller Allan Dunn has a mighty task in encapsulating the convoluted plot of fostered babies, disputed lineage and regal inheritance that is the back-story to The Gondoliers. His skill in putting the socially-distanced audience in the picture – assisted by the illustrations of Otto von Beach – is matched by the versatility of the vocalists, baritone Andrew McTaggart and soprano Sarah Power, who have not only to double up as more than a single gondola-punter but also supply the chorus numbers that are the back-bone of Sullivan’s score.

If the term had not been hi-jacked for another kind of musical theatre, The Gondoliers would be the ultimate juke-box musical, because the hits just keep on coming. McTaggart and Power are as adept with the comedic patter songs as they are with the romantic crooning of When A Merry Maiden Marries and Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes, even if dancing the Cachucha, Fandango and Bolero can only be gestured at in the circumstances.

Sponsored by Baillie Gifford; supported by The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust.

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Sept 15 & 16; Eden Court, Inverness Sept 19; Heart of Hawick Sept 24; Slessor Gardens, Dundee Sept 25 and Edinburgh Zoo Sept 27.