~ - 13/09/2005 by Harry Forbes~

Michael Ball, the English matinee idol and recording star, continues his metamorphosis into accomplished character actor -- begun with his West End Count Fosco in "The Woman in White" -- with a triumphant foray into Gilbert and Sullivan.

As Reginald Bunthorne, the "aesthetic" poet who embodies the movement epitomized by Oscar Wilde, Ball is a campy delight. And his singing, an occasional pop inflection notwithstanding, is the very model of D'Oyly Carte style. He is the brilliant centerpiece of Tazewell Thompson's fine production, which began life at Glimmerglass, and manages to be delightfully fresh.

This is the story of two rival poets and the "20 lovesick maidens" who dote on them, to the consternation of the manly dragoons to whom the maidens are engaged. The poets, however, are smitten with simple milkmaid Patience.

Donald Eastman's bright set, a Georgian house façade that revolves to reveal a finishing academy for the maidens, sometimes confines the action but mostly works; it is nicely lit by Robert Wierzel. Merrily Murray-Walsh's costumes aptly contrast the aesthetic with the fleshly.

Gary Thor Wedow conducts reverently, and musical values are high. Some original lyrics are reinstated and elsewhere topical new ones inserted, but otherwise tradition is kept. Diction is exemplary all round.

Myrna Paris makes a splendid Lady Jane, her cello solo a highlight. Tonna Miller gives Patience's lines a common touch, but she sings aristocratically. Timothy Nolen is a splendid Colonel Calverley, with good support from Christopher Jackson's Duke of Dunstable and Matthew Burns' Major Murgatroyd. Ditto Jennifer Roderer, Heather Johnson, and Kathleen Magee.

Kevin Burdette is a flavorful Grosvenor, Bunthorne's rival for Patience's hand, but his performance is too like Ball's in its campiness. Still, their show-stopping duet brings the house down.

All in all, this production more than holds its own with the near-definitive English National Opera version that played the Met a couple of decades ago

With biggest thanks to Doris L. for finding this great review

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