The Scottish Opera conducted by Richard Egarr perform Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Arthur Sullivan
WORKS: HMS Pinafore
PERFORMER: John Mark Ainsley, Elizabeth Watts, Toby Spence, Hilary Summers, Neal Davies, Andrew Foster-Williams, Gavan Ring, Kitty Whately, Tim Brooke-Taylor; Scottish Opera/Richard Egarr


Scottish Opera braved extraordinary critical snobbery for daring to inflict Gilbert and Sullivan on the supposedly cutting-edge Edinburgh Festival. The audiences nonetheless evidently enjoyed this one. Baroque specialist Richard Egarr treats Sullivan no less respectfully, bringing similar structural sense and springy energy to the score, and a cast of top-drawer voices headed by Toby Spence’s buoyant Ralph Rackstraw and Elizabeth Watts’s Josephine, with strong top notes and a pleasantly mischievous touch. Lesser roles are also strong, notably Neal Davies’s Dick Deadeye. Andrew Foster-Williams is a sturdy Captain Corcoran, and Hilary Summers, with her resonant dark alto, a striking Buttercup. Most of the singers could make more of the words, for which Egarr’s very precision and crispness may be responsible; one wishes he could cut them, and the rather stiff chorus, a little more slack. John Mark Ainsley’s Sir Joseph Porter is in need of a comic boost, falling short, for example, of the late Sam Kelly’s hilariously mean-minded characterisation for D’Oyly Carte. But archetypal Englishman Tim Brooke-Taylor is well judged and not too obtrusive as a narrator.

As a full modern recording without dialogue, this is definitely recommendable. Charles Mackerras’s Telarc version, though, remains irresistible with Sir Thomas Allen’s baffled Captain and Richard Suart’s unexaggerated Sir Joseph.

Michael Scott Rohan

Click here to listen to an excerpt from this recording.


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