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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: The Geisha
PERFORMER: Lillian Watson, Christopher Maltman, Sarah Walker, Richard Suart; New London Light Opera Chorus, New London Orchestra/Ronald Corp
When it opened in 1896 (the year G&S split), Sidney Jones’s The Geisha ran for an incredible 760 performances. Incredible, because the plot is as thin as ricepaper (jolly jack tars sail to the rescue of the lovelorn madam of a Japanese tea house) and the text utter doggerel (full of a colonialist attitude to race so offensive I dare anyone to play ‘Chin Chin Chinaman’ to the staff of their local takeaway). The score is simply a string of off-the-peg music-hall numbers, some no worse than many of Sullivan’s (and Christopher Maltman’s stylish singing of the baritone ballad ‘Star of My Soul’ makes that at least sound marginally better), most just the sort of barrel-organ fodder you got on The Good Old Days on a bad night, while none has the saving grace of Gilbert’s satirical wit. Corp is, of course, our leading apologist for British Light Music. In last month’s BBC Music Magazine, he even claimed that Elgar would have felt no difference between writing ‘light music one day and Gerontius the next’. Poppycock! Elgar could tell salon music from serious music, even if Corp can’t. But if he really does believe in this stuff and isn’t just catering to the nostalgia of the musically arrested, how can he countenance anything as grotesque as Sarah Walker’s vocal gurning as Molly, the madcap fiancée? Mark Pappenheim