The English National Opera presents first HMS Pinafore

HMS Pinafore

This autumn, for the first time ever, the English National Opera (ENO) presents Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic masterpiece HMS Pinafore. Also known as The Lass That Loved a Sailor, and first presented in 1878, this Gilbert & Sullivan classic is as sharply relevant as ever, poking fun at the British class system.

The production is directed by ‘the king of physical comedy’ (The Telegraph), Irish director Cal McCrystal, who returns to the ENO for the first time since 2018’s ‘all-round, knockout success’ (Financial Times) Iolanthe: one of the ENO’s most popular productions of all time. An acclaimed comedy director and the mastermind behind some of the most celebrated comic scenes in theatre and film (One Man, Two Guvnors, Paddington), he lends his trademark slapstick humour to this farcical satire, packed with witty characters aboard a grand naval vessel.

Director Cal McCrystal says: ‘I am so excited to be back at the ENO. After the last year we all badly need a jolly good laugh and I promise that HMS Pinafore will be just that. It is a joy to work with my creative team, the amazing cast and the always superb ENO chorus.

HMS Pinafore’s score abounds with memorable musical moments: sea shanties, patter songs and witty reimaginings of patriotic anthems, deftly realised by the award-winning ENO Orchestra. Conducting is British conductor Chris Hopkins, Principal Conductor of English Sinfonia, Musical Director of Orchestra of the City and ENO regular, following on from his success conducting The Mikado in the 19/20 season.

A multi-talented cast brings Pinafore’s absurd characters to life. Making his operatic debut as Sir Joseph, First Lord of the Admiralty is actor, comedian and singer Les Dennis. Les is a familiar face and household name thanks to a stellar television and stage career including; Coronation Street, Extras, Family Fortunes and lead roles in the West End and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Les brings his commanding stage presence and well-honed comic timing to the role of Sir Joseph, the pompous head of the navy standing between lovers Josephine and Ralph.

British bass-baritone John Savournin sings Captain Corcoran. An incredibly versatile singer, John can turn his hand to both tragedy and comedy with ease. Possessing ‘terrific comedic stage skills’ (The Metro), he is known for his operetta – both singing and directing.

Welsh tenor and ENO Harewood Artist Elgan Llŷr Thomas is Ralph Rackstraw, following his leading role in 2019’s revival of Jonathan Miller’s classic production of The Mikado, where he was praised as a ‘light and lyrical as the fresh-faced, kiss-curled Nanki-Poo’ (The Stage). Joining Elgan is new Harewood Artist, Australian Soprano Alexandra Oomens. Alexandra makes her ENO debut this season: Josephine being the first of two roles. Alexandra brings to her roles ‘sheer delight, sung with lovely silvery tone, precise and well-articulated coloratura, smooth, even legato and emotional commitment’ (Bachtrack).

They are joined by award-winning British baritone Marcus Farnsworth as the Boatswain. Marcus is well established both on the opera and concert stages and has worked with leading orchestras around the world. His role as Strephon in Cal McCrystal’s Iolanthe was ‘admirable’ (Evening Standard). Bass-baritone Henry Waddington makes a welcome return to the ENO as Dick Deadeye, following ‘an imposing’ (Mark Ronan) Dr Grenvil in 2018’s La traviata. Sought-after Grammy Award-winning British contralto Hilary Summers makes a welcome return to the ENO as Buttercup, bringing her ‘terrific energy and aplomb’ (Daily Telegraph) to the role.

The cast is completed by ‘standout’ (The Times) British mezzo-soprano Bethan Langford as Hebe and British bass-baritone Ossian Huskinson as Bob Becket, both making their ENO debuts.

The seafaring set and costumes are by Greek designer takis, whose work has graced the stages of theatres across the UK and abroad, and whose installations have appeared at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Design Museums in both London and Helsinki. Reuniting with Cal McCrystal after Iolanthe is leading West End British choreographer Lizzi Gee and British lighting designer Tim Mitchell.

The matinee performance on Friday 3 December is a relaxed performance. Its format is ideal for both adults and children who might benefit from a more relaxed theatre environment, including those with an autism spectrum condition, sensory and communication disorders or learning disability. Small changes are made to the lights and sound in the production, lights in the audience are only dimmed, and audiences can move in and out of the auditorium freely, and are able to access relaxed chill out areas.HMS Pinafore opens on Friday 29 October at 19.00 at the London Coliseum for 19 performances: Oct 29 at 19.00. Oct 30, Nov 6, 12, 17, 18, 27, 30 & Dec 3, 6, 9, 11 at 19.30. Oct 30 & Nov 6, 7, 14, 27 at 15.00. Nov 20 at 14.00.The signed performance is Nov 17 at 19.30.The relaxed performance is Dec 3 at 13.30.Tickets start from £10 (plus booking fee)*