Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Gondoliers” was performed by the Cimarron Opera Company in Norman in July. The sprightly melodies and nonsensical story were brought to life by a talented team of directors and a cast with delightful voices and real acting ability. Cimarron Opera has been a part of performing arts in central Oklahoma since the mid 1970s; the summer operetta and opera camp have been fixtures for many years. The summer program usually focuses on a Gilbert & Sullivan production; these light operas demand as much from a singer as any of the better known German or Italian operas.
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The young gondoliers of the title are brothers, one of whom is thought to be the long missing heir to the kingdom of Barataria. The big question is, which one? Since the young heir was married in childhood, the two gondoliers’ recent weddings are now in question. This sets up four voices pledging love and bemoaning fate in sprightly G&S style. Hunter Birkhead (Marco) and Greg Gore (Giuseppe) sang the gondoliers with just the appropriate touch of pompous entitlement and disingenuous naïveté. Their partners, sung by Alexandra Sanford (Gianetta) and Christine Couron (Tessa) were well matched, providing a good balance to the various duets and quartets. Couron in particular blended a lovely voice with very funny acting.
The other young couple—two is never enough for G&S—caught up in this included Andra Erbar (Casilda), the girl who is “married” to the missing heir, and Kurt Leftwich (Luiz) who is the drummer/band/factotum to her father. Again, both sang beautifully, and Leftwich was particularly powerful in the role, which showcased his range as an actor and a singer. Completing this quartet were Mark Johnson (the Duke of Plaza-Toro) and Marcy Gonzales (the Duchess of Plaza-Toro) who play Casilda’s penny-pinched parents. Johnson and Gonzales delivered high camp with energy and strong singing. One of the most comedically effective moments of the show was the entrance of the Plaza-Toro quartet, complete with boat, to sing energetically about sea-sickness.
Orchestrating the original removal of the prince and the overall management of the scene is the grand puppet-master, Robin Noad (Don Alhambra). Noad sang the role of the G&S antagonist with great strength, giving the comic role some real depth. As the uncredited deus ex machina, Grace Otto (the nurse) was beguilingly comic as she delivered the punch line of the show.
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