The venerable New Sussex Opera Chorus presented The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay in three performances in Lewes, Eastbourne and Hurstpierpoint over the May Bank Holiday Weekend.
John Gay’s ever popular 18th century compilation of the ‘hit tunes’ of the day was well represented in this entertaining ‘in-house’ production.
The score, much-adapted over the centuries, was performed in a version tailor-made for the Company by the Music Director, Nick Milner-Gulland and Director, Tony Baker.
The Overture, all the best-loved arias, duos and trios were there to enjoy, along with abridged dialogue, which retained the spirit and plot of the original.
With the full cast in period costumes and only a table covered in props of 18th century paraphernalia, Baker’s economical production captured the true spirit of the piece.
An attractive trio of talented, youthful singers was cast in the ‘love triangle’ with Sebastian Charlesworth (Macheath); Rachel Farago (Polly Peachum) and a sparkling Siân Griffiths (Lucy Lockit).
Jason Crook was especially polished as Peachum. Members of the NSO Chorus stepped up to fill the balance of the cast most capably.
Sarah Soutar (Mrs Trapes) was a standout with her amusing account of “In the Days of My Youth”.
The real star of the show, however, was the NSO Chorus itself. Throughout the evening they offered unflagging energy, spirit and unified ensemble.
Music Director, Nick Milner-Gulland provided robust and imaginative accompaniments on harpsichord for all the vocal solos.
He was joined by an ensemble of flute and strings for the choruses.
The Beggar’s Opera was performed in aid of the New Sussex Opera’s next major production, Weber’s Oberon, a Romantic opera in three acts performed in the original English with NSO Chorus, St Paul’s Sinfonia, conducted by Nicholas Jenkins.
Performances in Lewes on November 19; Eastbourne on November 23 and Cadogan Hall, London on November 25.
Judging by the success of The Beggar’s Opera it should be well worth the wait.
By Hester Furman