English National Opera (Coliseum), London • 7 July 2007 • 2:30pm
(1953.) Music & lyrics by Robert Wright & George Forrest from themes of Alexander Borodin. Book by Charles Lederer and Luther Davis founded on a play by Edward Knoblock.

Conductor: Richard Hickox. Director: Gary Griffin. With Michael Ball (A Poet), Graeme Danby (The Wazir), Faith Prince (Lalume), Alfie Boe (The Caliph), Sarah Tynan (Marsinah), Rodney Clarke (Chief Policeman)…

Once more, the English National Opera has managed to transform a fantastic show into a mediocre experience, which is exactly what had happened already with On the Town and with The Gondoliers.

And yet, on paper, it was difficult to get it wrong, especially with such a gorgeous score and with such a talented cast (the superb Graeme Danby as the Wazir, the irresistible Faith Prince as the conniving Lalume and the amazing Michael Ball, who carries the show with breathtaking assuredness, charm and charisma).

But the creative team have joined forces to bring the production down on every conceivable level: uninspired musical direction, ugly scenic design, the poorest sound design I’ve heard in any country including France… and a dull, pedestrian staging.

It is a testimony to the quality of the show and cast that the performance still managed to be enjoyable at times. In its way, the much smaller production at the Arcola Theatre in December 2003 was a lot more professional.

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