Review: Princess Ida

Princess Ida. Picture: Comp
Princess Ida. Picture: Comp
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GOOD opera is more a perfect storm of alchemical coincidence than a scientific formula that can be replicated at will.

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The King’s Theatre

Finding singers with the right quality of voice, “look” for the character, ability to act, enunciate and convey the meaning of an aria in another language and work in harmony with the orchestra was difficult enough in an era when opera was the pop music of its day.

In this day and age, where opera is shelved by music companies in favour of second-rate celebs pumping out auto-tuned dance hits, finding performers with all of those gifts and then creating a production around them that engages and charms an audience is nigh on impossible – well, within a reasonable budget.

Which is why a good amateur company can often achieve more than some of the finer opera companies simply by virtue of the fact that they’re not seeking perfection. By compromising the quality of voice in their performers, they’re able to pull together a respectable production that audiences will forgive for having flaws as it’s been created on a tight budget by amateur enthusiasts.

Certainly the opening act of the Edinburgh Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s Princess Ida is strong enough to give many professional companies a run for their money. Utilising front and back screen projection to delightful effect, balancing the orchestra at just the right level under the performers’ voices and telling the story with well-timed, pleasing acting and vocal ability from the principals made for an engaging start.

Celebrating their 90th anniversary, the company have chosen a show that showcases some of Sullivan’s most vibrant music, beautifully handled by the orchestra and conducted by David Lyle. Gilbert’s libretto, however, leaves room to be desired. While it is easily accessible to a modern audience, the company find themselves battling to make a poor ending interesting.

Director Alan Borthwick does a solid job of eliciting good performances while keeping the pace going, although the production’s energy wanes in the third act.

• Run ends tomorrow