Opera Review


Home Reviewers






Continental Airlines


Tower Festival 2009






By W.S. Gilbert and A.S.Sullivan


Presented by the Carl Rosa Opera


Director and Production Design: Peter Mulloy


Musical Director and Conductor: Wyn Davies


Lighting Design: Tim Speechley


Tower of London


13 & 15 September 2009







A review by Barry Grantham for EXTRA! EXTRA!


I think Carl Rosa’s new production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Yeomen of the Guard is probably very good indeed. The singing is quite superb, and the orchestra under the direction of Peter Mulloy is excellent; Sullivan is heard at his most melodious and Gilbert’s wit survives surprisingly well. Why then only ‘Think’? 

‘Think’ is because the conditions under which it was seen at the Tower of London last night made it difficult to make an accurate assessment. There were two thousand people seated in front of me, and a further two thousand behind me.  A large and friendly chap in a large padded coat invaded my space from the left, and once removed to the right another person spilled over the seat of the small metal chair provided by the organisers. By my side my small wife sat trapped in, like the Doormouse at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Over the sea of heads before me, on a large shell shaped pop-concert-like erection could just be made out a row of tiny figures dressed in red, which with the help of a good pair of opera-glasses I was able to identify as the Yeomen Beefeaters. By a miracle of recent technology, two large video screens showed portions of the stage – usually, but not always appropriate, which helped us to understand what was going on. – but with the intense cold, the thought crossed my mind that, if I was going to see it on a screen, I would be a lot more comfortable in front of my own TV set.  

The organisers of the presentation make much of the fact that the performance is given in the location dealt with in the plot,  i.e. The Tower of London, but in all honesty, from the depth of the moat where the stage and seating are located only the bleak curtain wall of the Outer Ward is visible and none of the iconic and atmospheric features associated with the Tower.   Perhaps all this is a bit churlish of me; the event was well organised, the ticket staff and security officers polite and efficient, and the crowds well handled, and the field toilets positively elegant.  Having enumerated the disadvantages of the venue I will try to give some evaluation of the performance. 

As I have said the singing is splendid; from the first notes of ‘When a Maiden Loves…’.sung by Miss Victoria Byron in the character of Phoebe we know we are in for a musical treat. Congratulations to the sound engineers by the way, who in spite of a short hiatus during which the radio mikes failed, and the cast proved their adaptability in handing round a hand held microphone, made the voices not only audible in the vast venue but enjoyable The other female lead, Charlotte Page, in the role of Elsie, a Strolling Player, provided us with a voice of equal purity and convinced us of the difficulty hero Colonel Fairfax, sung in fine voice by David Curry, (‘Is Life a Boon?’) hasin choosing between them.   

Mention must be made of the G & S veteran Gareth Jones, as the Lieutenant of the Tower and Susan Gorton (Housekeeper of the Tower) whose ‘Screw may Twist and the Rack may Turn’   adds a darker side to the Gilbertian high jinks. The high jinks are in the capable hands of Donald Maxwell, as Head Jailor and Assistant Tormentor, and Paul Nicholas as the Jester Jack Point. Paul Nicholas (‘I’ve Jibe and Joke..’.) is the only artist to be given billing, which is not only justified by his familiarity to the TV public but also to his very competent handling of this important role.



Sunday 13 and Tuesday 15 September at 7.30 pm

Tower of London


Tickets: £50 £45,£27.50 Subject to booking fee.

Box Office: 0844 847 2519 




Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved



Home Reviewers