By M L RANTALA
Hyde Park’s own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company welcomed spring with another fun and frothy production of “H.M.S. Pinafore.” This silly story of “The Lass that Loved a Sailor” was given three performances this past weekend at Mandel Hall.
Since 1960 this troupe has been offering the works of William S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan (during these 54 years they have produced at least once every operetta in the canon), and since 1983 the net proceeds have gone to help fund the University of Chicago’s Department of Music performance programs.
During the period I’ve been reviewing these productions, the group has gradually moved from mostly amateur casts to those which feature young graduates of music programs who hope to make a go with a professional career. And so the singing has become more and more impressive.
This production was stuffed with talent. Veteran mezzo Rose Guccione was one of the anchoring singers and a key to this year’s success. Her saucy Little Buttercup had a deep vocal resonance and her stage cavorting had admirable timing which drew many well-earned gales of laughter.
Bass-baritone Edward Hanlon nearly stole the show with his vibrant portrayal of Dick Deadeye. He had fantastic projection, superb tone, and a delicious sense of humor.
On the romantic side of things, tenor Alan Taylor served up some delightfully pretty singing as the love-struck Ralph.
Music director and conductor Robert Whalen led the University of Chicago’s chamber orchestra in a wonderful reading of the score. His leadership showed just what this ensemble is capable of doing. It was the best performance from the pit that I have ever heard from this group. I hope he has a long and productive future with the ensemble.
The stage was effectively fitted out as a ship, and the blocking included marvelous little moments, such as a sailor walking on a rolling barrel. The entertaining dancing added to the amusement. The costumes were enjoyable and included funny little touches like a ridiculous plume for the hat of Sir Joseph Porter, the pompous head of the Queen’s Navy who always travels with his sisters and his cousins and his aunts. The only misstep was putting Josephine, the romantic lead, in a dress which made her look like she was swaddled in wet blankets.
The supertitles, which have been a part of these productions since 2012, are professionally rendered and make it all the easier to enjoy the Hyde Park treasure that is the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company.