I have never been to see an opera before, HMS Pinafore by Opera Della Luna was my first.
I found HMS Pinafore to be an OK opera, but not great. It wasn’t so terrible I wanted to scratch out my eyes and plug up my ears with them, but it also wasn’t an opera that set my heart racing and left me a total lover of opera for the rest of my life.
Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore is a comedy opera and although there was a little giggle here or there the rest of the performance was lacking any spark :-(
Maybe it’s the age of this opera which has been in circulation since the late 18 hundreds or the actual performance by Opera Della Luna Company, felt like both the age and the opera company had limitations that made this productions lacking.
The actual opera itself came across as catering for a typical Victorian audience, with a little giggle behind a gloved hand here and there with the rest of the opera concentrating on the love sick couple that have a love that is denied them by society due to class differences, one being a poor common sailor and the other the daughter of the ships captain. The usual setup for a love story.
I have to say whenever the two lovers sang about there unacquainted love (which was all the way through) I found myself taking in a disapproving deep breath, bracing myself for the boredom. I noticed my hubby and son doing the same! This part of the opera was tiresome, the two main characters lacked any flair.
The lovers came across as a typical tale of a female in Victorian times all boring and proper and a serious love struck hard working young sailor, both characters were easily forgettable, if it wasn’t for the comical Admiral I think I would have fallen into a coma.
The music wasn’t much to write home about, it was OK, but it lacked the sea shanty charm and was particularly boring when the two lovers sang their scores. The music in HMS Pinafore was not the typical stark opera music, but it wasn’t a barrel of laughs either.
The Admiral was the only performance of the evening in HMS Pinafore that was thoroughly enjoyable, when he stepped on stage he livened up the opera and made it fun with his dithering nature. This might be a little unfair to the rest of the actors on stage since the Admiral seems to be the only character in HMS Pinafore who had any personality (or at least in this version of the opera).
I also like the class bashing and in particular the first song the Admiral sang. He made Admiral and became the leader of the Queens Navy by never stepping foot on a boat, loved the homosexual innuendo that the Admiral shows, quite funny and had all the characters been as comical it could have been an enjoyable show.
The Admiral wasn’t on enough in my opinion, if he had been the main focus of the show it might have been more enjoyable. He was supported well by the three female characters (one played by a man) who boarded the boat at the same time as the Admiral and sang along with him in some of the songs. The Captain’s character also supported the Admirals comedy quite well, it seemed almost all the comedy was centered around this one character. No other character were really funny.
The Opera Della Luna production of HMS Pinafore started really slow with the actors setting up the scene as we watched. A good 10 minutes passed with nothing really happening, I should have realised then that we were in for a substandard show.
The rest of the performances by the other actors were dull, they tried, but never really pulled it off. When it came to the opera company itself this is where Gilbert and Sullivan production of HMS Pinafore failed to impress.
There was no microphones for the players, so their voices were lost and engulfed by the live music playing on stage, this happened to the lady who played Buttercup the gypsy peasant all the way through the performance, her voice wasn’t that strong. I will admit though that at times during the high notes a microphone might have blown our ears, I would say that the Embassy Theatre was too big for this opera and that a smaller theatre or hall would have suited it much better. We sit at the back of the theater so my hubby can stretch his back, when we got the tickets we were warned we might not be able to hear the show well, but I don’ think being closer would have made much difference since the music would will be louder than the actors voices.
The next big problem was understanding what they were singing, Gilbert and Sullivan HMS Pinafore is an English Opera, but I couldn’t understand a lot of what they were saying in many of the songs. I never caught a word at all in some of the songs, I’m just glad it was a basic story line or I wouldn’t have been able to follow the story. My hubby leaned over to me at one point during HMS Pinafore and whispered in my ear they need to have subtitles :-) again the best performance was from the Admiral when he sang a solo you could understand almost every word he said.
The cost of the show was unbelievable for what you get normally at the Embassy Theatre. The Embassy sells tickets at a very competitive price for most of it’s shows, but Opera Della Luna must be having a laugh at the price they charged per seat with adult ticket at £23.50 and a child ticket was £11.00 add on the extra £2 handling charge and I payed a whopping £39 for a second rate production, my hubby was lucky he got his ticket for free. The Embassy started giving away the tickets via their Facebook group the night before (presumably to fill some seats, I assume they hadn’t sold many), I do feel a bit ripped off from this show.
I personally will never see an opera like this again, I’ve been put right off by Opera Della Luna’s HMS Pinafore, which is a shame as I could see the story had potential, but it needs to be updated to entertain a modern audience with more uplifting songs, more comedy and livelier characters. I know it was a take on the traditional opera By Gilbert and Sullivan, but it’s 2010 and you have to move with the times or you’ll loose an audience which is why I think opera is dying as an art form in the theatre, shame but them’s the punches.
I would not recommend spending a lot of money on tickets to see this opera, it’s not worth it. HMS Pinafore did have it’s good moments with it’s comedy which has lasted the test of time and can entertain and make a 21st century audience laugh (though not very loud, more of a low level chuckle), but the rest off this productions shows it’s age with an out of date story (the class divide is no longer relevant) and dull characters.
The production from Opera Della Luna had an amateur feel to the show, I’d say if you chose to skip this one your not missing much.
HMS Pinafore Rating
Would We Go Again : No
Would We Recommend To Others: No
Was It Value For Money: Definitely Not
Recommended For: All ages
Star Rating 4/10