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Reviews currently included here have been posted by contributor, Ian Bond, and are his personal views, and these may not necessarily represent the views of St David’s Players
The much maligned Brent Walker series, apart from including all 11 operas from Trial through to Gondoliers, also included Cox and Box, and it is generally acknowledged that this recording is one of the best of the series.
Freed from the restrictions of the stage, this production is able to take the three protagonists out of the house, into the street, and even into the local inn. There being no chorus in Cox and Box the Ambrosian Opera Chorus are used as various inhabitants of the neighbourhood and the whole production has a delightful ambiance redolent of a seedy Victorian London suburb.
Russell Smythe is a delightful Cox whose vain attempts to bring some kind of sanity into the increasingly bizarre situations in which he finds himself, find him increasingly frustrated. Box (John Fryatt) on the other hand seems to take each new turn of events in a very laid-back manner, until that is, the threatened arrival of Penelope-Ann brings him back to earth.
As a very Irish Bouncer, Thomas Lawlor is an absolute comic delight.
The London Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Alexander Faris and the opera is presented more or less complete with all the verses usually cut, the full ‘Gambling Duet’ and most of the musical repeats.
The DVD is coupled with Trial and is available from UNIVERSAL 823 146-1. The DVD is also included as part of Universal’s 11 DVD set.
The Brent Walker series of videos made in the early 1980’s has come in for a considerable amount of flack over the years. However, with the reissue of the series on DVD by Universal there has been a chance to re-evaluate these performances and it has to be said that Trial is certainly one of the best in the series. It now has the bonus of being coupled with the only complete performance with orchestra in any format of the original version of Cox and Box. The recordings were made during 1982 and were first released in the UK in 1983.
Love him or loathe him, Frankie Howerd actually makes a very decent Learned Judge - the part actually suits him, unlike his appalling Sir Joseph in the same series’ Pinafore.
He is ably backed by a sweet, simpering, but sometimes petulent Kate Flowers as Angelina. Ryland Davies is a handsome, freshvoiced Edwin who is accompanied on his day in court by a silent Anna Dawson as The Other Woman. Tom McDonnel is a bemused Counsel and Eleanor McCreadie is suitably (but silently) outraged as the Bride’s Mother.
The main action is preceded by Sullivan’s delightful ‘Overture Di Ballo’ during which we see the various characters (including the charwoman who cleans the court) preparing for the forthcoming day.
The Ambrosian Opera Chorus and the London Symphony Orchestra are all ably conducted by Alexander Faris, a frequent guest conductor with D’Oyly Carte.
The DVD is available as part of Universal’s 11 disc boxed set and also singly, catalogue number 823 146-1.
Back in 1982 a video production company controlled by George Walker announced a complete series of Gilbert and Sullivan presentations. In the event all the operas with the exception of Thespis, Utopia and Grand Duke were produced, with varying results. Introductions to each presentation, given by Douglas Fairbanks Jnr. were an annoying feature of these tapes as were the multiple cuts in Yeomen.
One of the best of the series was undoubtedly The Sorcerer and this has now become available in the UK again, this time on DVD. Currently this is part of an eleven disc set containing all the operas, but hopefully they will become available singly at a later date.
The medium of film allows the director the freedom to move in and out of Sir Marmaduke’s mansion, around the gardens, in and out of the refreshment tent and, at one point, out into a neighbouring field to visit a haystack!!
This production is thankfully lacking in the ‘star’ names that spoil some of the other presentations in this series. The cast is headed by ex-D’Oyly Carter, Donald Adams as Sir Marmaduke, playing a role her never assumed on stage but obviously relishing every moment. Nuala Willis is suitably matched as Lady Sangazure. Nan Christie is a thoroughly delightful Aline and Alexander Oliver is suitably pompous and strong willed as Alexis. Enid Hartle and Janis Kelly give excellent performances as Mrs Partlet and her daughter, Constance and an ageing David Kernan gives a suitably bumbling performance as Dr Daly. Clive Revill, who made such a tremendous impression as Ko-Ko at Sadler’s Wells in 1962, gives a splendid performance as John Wellington-Wells. The Notary is uncredited but was possibly a member of the Ambrosian Opera Chorus. The London Symphony Orchestra is conducted splendidly by Alexander Faris.
Douglas Faibanks Jnr. is still present, but then the advantage of DVD is that you can skip him!!
The set has been reissued in new packaging and with complete production libretto included in each case, by Universal (catalogue number DVD 8228651-11), the rrp is £99.99 although it can be found much cheaper. Amazon often retail this set at much less. Each separate disc has its own catalogue number and this DVD is now available separately on 822 870-3 although it does seem to go in and out of stock.
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