A Grant Park Evening Mostly Sublime with Gilbert and Sullivan

July 11, 2009

This year's program...provided a lively and enjoyable evening, aided enormously by Christopher Bell's spirited and idiomatic conducting and the fine contributions of the Grant Park Chorus.

You have to admire the versatility of the Grant Park Orchestra. Just 48 hours apart, they gave us a memorable reading of a challenging Bruckner symphony, and, on Friday night, morphed into a sassy Savoy pit band for an evening of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Grant Park’s annual Gilbert and Sullivan programs are a clear audience favorite, judging by the sizeable turnout at the Pritzker Pavilion Friday, aided, no doubt, by one of the summer’s more accommodating weather nights.

This year’s program centered on excerpts from The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado, and for the most part provided a lively and enjoyable evening, aided enormously by Christopher Bell’s spirited and idiomatic conducting and the fine contributions of the Grant Park Chorus.

The five soloists made a worthy ensemble team, individually and collectively. Guests Frances McCafferty and Richard Suart provided veteran Savoyard experience, manifest in their humor, pinpoint clarity and articulation, while three members of the Grant Park Chorus offered equally vital singing, showing how remarkably deep the talent bench is in that ensemble.

A couple quibbles: I would have traded most of Barbara E. Robertson’s arch, faux-grande dame narration of the baffling plots for more G&S music. And, perhaps the program was designed to avoid repeating the usual hits but it does seem odd to present extended Mikado excerpts without The flowers that bloom in the spring or There is beauty in the bellow of the blast, particularly the latter with such a characterful duo as McCafferty and Suart on hand as Katisha and Ko-Ko. Read the full article at www.chicagoclassicalreview.com.

Lawrence Johnson, Chicago Classical Review