Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore” dropped anchor Friday evening at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts, where the Virginia Opera gave a clever and reverently detailed production of the British duo’s fourth opera.
Well known for its nautical hijinks and satire, “Pinafore” depicts the tale of a captain’s daughter who is betrothed to an admiral but is in love with a common sailor. While adhering to the original 1878 libretto and staging, director Nicola Bowie allowed a handful of modern updates: In some well-timed punch lines, references to cellphones, CPR and Restoration Hardware furniture — plus a stuffed black cat that “ran” across the stage — all drew appreciative laughter as part of a fun, loving reproduction of the opera.
As the young lovers Ralph and Josephine, Cullen Gandy and Shannon Jennings generated warm onstage chemistry. Gandy’s velvety tenor displayed tenderness and strength while Jennings’s lyric soprano glittered up high. However, her mid-range, though spot-on and even-keeled, tended to lose diction in the hall.
Portraying the hilarious Captain Corcoran, baritone Christopher Burchett’s regal voice complemented Margaret Gawrysiak, whose versatile mezzo-soprano and splendid acting as Little Buttercup captured the opera’s heart and soul.
Bass-baritone Jake Gardner turned in a fine performance as the spurned Sir Joseph Porter while bass-baritone Matthew Scollin’s scruffy Dick Deadeye was delectably scheming.
Conductor Adam Turner kept the orchestra sounding high-spirited, and the well-cast chorus — with the men smartly decked out as sailors and the ladies glammed up in park-strolling gowns with parasols — energized with crisp singing and choreography.
Jean is a freelance writer.