St Albans Chamber Opera’s stout Yeomen of the Guard

SAD to say, Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera The Yeomen of the Guard is one of their most rarely performed but anyone fortunate enough to see St Albans Chamber Opera’s production last week could hardly have failed to be thrilled.

The work not only has one of Gilbert’s simpler plots but also some of Sullivan’s finest music.

And the production at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans also benefited from a string of fine singers who demonstrated first-class acting ability.

In fact, while one has come to expect good quality singing from St Albans Chamber Opera, the thing which gave this particular production its extra edge was the superb characterisation by those playing major parts.

Lina Saavedera as the heroine Elsie Maynard, Damon Pattison as the jester Jack Point and John Savournin as Wilfred Shadbolt, the chief jailer, all gave particularly impressive performances although, in all fairness, Des Turner as Sergeant Meryll, Melanie Lodge as his daughter Phoebe, Kate Bingham-Best as Dame Carruthers,and Richard Cowling as Colonel Fairfax together with Ian Boughton as Sir Richard Cholmondley also added greatly to the overall production.

It was also good to hear Alexandra McPhee making her debut with Chamber Opera in the small but important role of Kate, Dame Carruthers’ niece. I hope we will have more opportunities in the future to hear her excellent voice.

The overall quality also included the chorus and orchestra, not to forget the fine set designed by Paula Chitty.

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Unlike so many G&S shows Yeoman is not a social commentary on life in the Victorian era but is the nearest thing to grand opera they ever devised. Both director Peter Kestner and musical director David Ireson gave full weight to this to give a really well rounded and thoroughly satisfying experience.

It was the first time in the 24-year history of St Albans Chamber Opera that the company had turned to Gilbert and Sullivan, but one can only hope that they revisit this wonderful source again soon.