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A dismal how-de-do
on 14 January 2013
The impression I get from this recording is the audio is drier than other reviewers find it and the performance routine. The plums are predictably when things perk up a bit (Little list, Three little maids, Act 11 madrigal,He're's a how-de-do,) but it takes numbers like these to make even the orchestra wake up. Occasional liveliness is no substitute for real sparkle in this most popular of the Savoy operas. Valerie Masterson, the star of the show, gives a bright,knowing portrait of Yum-Yum. Colin Wright as her sweetheart is hampered by a fast vibrato which gives him an off-putting bleating quality. Kenneth Sandford, a fine baritone, has by now lost the power of his lower notes (he is much more secure in 1957) and John Reed's Ko-ko seems tired and detached. Again Katisha's interruption of the festivities in the Act 1 finale seems underpowered. Nash's conducting is partly to blame, he is unable to sustain the drama. John Ayldon's Mikado is resonantly nasty (good maniacal laugh) but his music is without the majesty it deserves. Where Nash sometimes scores in his lightweight account of the score is in revealing the subtleties of Sullivan's orchestration, eg The Criminial cried. But whether this a price worth paying for a distinctly 2nd-rate D'Oyly Carte production is debatable.
For the D'Oyly Carte tradition of Mikado at its musical and dramatic best, with an excellent team of soloists it is hard to beat Isidore Godfrey's 1957 version which remains the gold standard.