Are Gilbert & Sullivan Finally Dead?
Last night I was at an open-air performance of ‘The Yeomen Of The Guard’ in the moat at the Tower Of London. I thought it might be fun to see a site-specific opera that’s rarely performed now. Opera snobs loathe G&S for its stodginess (and I’ve seen some really bad productions) but the muscular energy of the language still has the power to amaze, and certain songs (closer to traditional folk than operatic arias) can sound astonishing.
The frankly elderly audience would have been hard-pressed to get much pleasure last night as they fought with interruptions from a failing sound system, helicopters, planes, drunken street crowds, traffic, riverside fireworks and a freezing wind. Having seen some startlingly modern, intelligent G&S productions in the past, I wondered – will they only now be seen like this, as tottering historical pageants?
What they desperately need to survive is a theatre director with imagination who doesn’t imagine he’s producing fare for an old folks’ home.