I am a complete Gilbert and Sullivan newbie. Aside from comedians doing riffs on being the very modern model of a modern major general, I’ve never even heard a note of any of their works. So I had no idea what to expect when heading to the London Coliseum last week for the press night of The Yeomen Of The Guard, one of their most famous operettas.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t even sure what an operetta was. Handily, the ENO’s website has a load of myth-busting and helpful articles to explain everything you might want to know about opera. So I now know that an operetta is sort of halfway between an opera and a musical. So there are spoken bits as well as songs, and they’re often shorter and simpler than a traditional opera and tend to be satirical and funny.
This meant it was super accessible and easy to get into – even for an opera novice like me. And – if you’re that way inclined – you can find a full synopsis of the story on the ENO’s website. They do this for all their operas so you can choose to read ahead the performance and track the story more easily. I didn’t read this beforehand, though, and still followed the story fine, especially as the show is sung in English with surtitles (subtitles above the stage).
The show itself was great, very fun and light with confused identities, elaborate plots, disguises and more than one love triangle – exactly what you want from a farce. Plus an operetta seems a perfect stepping stone towards opera if you’re not sure what to expect – you get to enjoy all the beautiful voices in a very easy to follow, funny story.
Aside from everything happening on stage, the Coliseum is an incredible venue to visit. It’s huge inside with gorgeous vaulted ceilings and detail everywhere. The acoustics alone are impressive; none of the actors on stage are mic’d up, relying instead on the sheer power of their voices and the design of the auditorium to be heard above the orchestra.
I would thoroughly recommend grabbing tickets if you’re a fan of opera or of Gilbert and Sullivan as it’s a seamless, fun and beautifully designed production. But I would also recommend to the opera-curious as a great way to dip your toe and see what it’s like!
The Yeomen Of The Guard is currently playing at the London Coliseum until 2 December.