The Gondoliers

By W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan

10th - 14th October 2006
York Theatre Royal

The Gondoliers, or The King of Barataria satirizes snobbery in all grades of society, and follows Gilbert's favourite theme of topsy-turvydom. Marco and Giuseppe ply their modest trade as gondoliers in Venice, not knowing that one of them is actually the King of Barataria, whisked away in infancy to protect him from a rebellion. But which is which? Not only that, but on their own wedding day they discover that the true king (whichever it is) was married as a child to the most beautiful young lady in Spain. She, awkwardly, loves her father’s drummer boy, Luiz. The two gondoliers are taken to Barataria, to reign jointly until the true identity or the king can be revealed. There, they establish a republican monarchy where everyone is equal. Needless to say, it doesn’t work very well! In the end the nurse who sheltered the two boys admits that neither of them is the true king: instead he is Luiz! Happiness all round!

Click the thumbnails to see the whole picture.


The Duke of Plaza-Toro (a grandee of Spain)

John Soper

Luiz (his attendant)

Adam Laird

Don Alhambra del Bolero (the Grand Inquisitor)

Ian Small

Marco Palmieri (a Venetian gondolier)

Richard Burton

Giuseppe Palmieri (a Venetian gondolier)

Alex Holland


Paul Richardson

The Duchess of Plaza-Toro

Carol Costello

Casilda (her daughter)

Cathy Atkin


Emma Tatnall


Catherine Thornton

Inez (the King's foster-mother)

Amanda Shackleton


Musical Director – Alasdair Jamieson

Director – Pauline Chadwick


Set Design – John Soper

Costume Design – Maggie Soper



‘Gondoliers On Song’ - The Press, Friday October 13th, 2006.

The miserable evening outside was instantly redeemed with a sparkling orchestral overture leading to a chorus awash with stunning costume finery (Maggie Soper), brimming with maidenly anticipation.

Richard Burton and Alex Holland, as Marco and Giuseppe, were a joy as the wide-eyed Gondolieri “tral-la-la-ing” to perfection. The staccato delivery of ‘From The Sunny Spanish Shore’ by the quartet of John Soper (Duke), Carol Costello (Duchess), Adam Laird (Luiz) and Cathy Atkin (Casilda) was quite exquisite and Mr Soper’s rendition of the Duke’s brilliantly rattled-out hymn to cowardice in ‘Enterprise of Martial Arts’ was hilarious. In contrast, the two love duets were tonally beautifully blended (super flute commentary) with the tenor’s (Adam Laird) slight intonation slips actually adding to the poignancy. Ian Small’s Grand Inquisitor was spot-on and his aria, ‘I Stole The Prince’, was performed with great aplomb. Catherine Thornton’s ‘When A Merry Maiden marries’ was projected with real clarity – it sounded nice too. Emma Tatnall lit up the stage with her butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-your-mouth charm.

The second act opened with a vision of a republican utopia where the two “kings” do all the work and the courtiers/gondoliers sit around playing games – the cat’s cradle and communal Sudoku were nice touches. Both Giuseppe and Marco’s arias were really very well delivered. Indeed, it is perhaps worth mentioning here that one of the very real successes of this production was not only the quality of the individual performances, but the seamless transitions into duets, quartets and quintets etc. ‘In A Contemplative Fashion’, for example, is not only very funny, it is also very tricky to bring off, which the quartet certainly did with the sopranos in great bitchy form.

I must admit to finding Gilbert’s second act somewhat threadbare, everyone has been introduced and nothing much happens. Nevertheless, there were very real highlights such as the superbly choreographed celebratory dance (Johanna Hartley and Glen Jackson) and a very funny ‘On The Day When I Was Wedded’ by Ms Costello, dripping with world-weary cynicism. The quintet ‘I Am A Courtier Grave And Serious’, was outrageously well delivered: a gavotte that was as visually pleasing as the musical performance.

The response and sensitivity of the orchestral playing was simply superb, thanks in no small measure to the musical instinct and authority of conductor Alasdair Jamieson.

Steve Crowther


Registered charity 700279