Transatlantic aid for Sunderland production of little-known Gilbert and Sullivan opera

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A SUNDERLAND society has received help from across the pond to stage one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s oft-forgotten operas.

St Andrew’s Operatic Society had to turn to a conductor in Seattle to provide a conductor’s score they could use for its forthcoming production of The Grand Duke.

The opera was Gilbert and Sullivan’s last joint production and was their only financial failure, but the Wearside group is breathing new life into the piece.

It is believed that its rendition of The Grand Duke, which opens tomorrow, will be the first time the opera has been performed in the city.

Barbara Watson, from the society, said: “The production has not been without difficulties.

“Although we could obtain the libretto and vocal scores in the UK, we have had to go to Seattle in the US to obtain a conductor’s score for the orchestra.

“Luckily, one of our cast has converted the conductor’s score into the 17 individual scores for the orchestra.”

She added: “The Grand Duke, or The Statutory Duel was the final operetta from the pens of Gilbert and Sullivan and opened on March 7, 1896 at the Savoy Theatre, London. This last opera ran for only 123 performances. It has all the usual twists and turns, including some new ones.”

A cast of 45 from the society, which has been staging Gilbert and Sullivan operas since 1945, together with a full orchestra, will perform the piece at Priestman Hall, in Talbot Road, Roker, until Saturday.

The full costume production is directed by Keith Armitage and Peter Shreyhane and the 17-piece orchestra is under the baton of Ken Matthews.

Among the principals are Richard Straw, Kathy Price, Phillip Hall, Rory Oliver, Paul Blakey, Kayleigh Oliver, Bernadette Trotter, Simon McLouglin, Jennifer Bain and Elizabeth Hamer.

l Tickets are available from Alan Spain on Tel. 514 8462; Joan Cook on Tel. 529 3439 and Smith’s Shoes Services, in Sea Road, Fulwell, Tel. 548 3232.