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Opera North’s Trial by Jury/L’Enfant Et Les Sortileges review – ‘two winning entertainments’

Amy Freston and Jeremy Peaker in Opera North's Trial by Jury. Photo: Robert Workman Amy Freston and Jeremy Peaker in Opera North's Trial by Jury. Photo: Robert Workman
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Back in 2004, Opera North enjoyed artistic success with Eight Little Greats, a season made up of one-act pieces played in various permutations. This autumn it revives the idea with six more works you can book individually or see in various matching pairs.

Here, Trial by Jury, the Gilbert and Sullivan parody of a court case in which Edwin is sued by Angelina for breach of promise of marriage, is paired with the Ravel/Colette lyric fantasy L’Enfant Et Les Sortileges, in which a destructive child is tamed when the objects he has damaged come to life and he learns empathy.

John Savournin updates Trial by Jury to the 1930s, preceding it with a new and unnecessary, if harmless, prologue in which the story is introduced by a Hedda Hopper-like gossip columnist, an invented character given camp swagger by Amy J Payne. After this the show continues merrily along its half-amiable, half-acidic path, appealingly sung and fluently acted by members of the company’s chorus.

Shining particularly brightly are Amy Freston’s manipulative Plaintiff, Nicholas Watts’ cocky Defendant and Jeremy Peaker’s outrageous Learned Judge. Oliver Rundell conducts a bright and breezy account of the score and the designs by Charles Edwards and Gabrielle Dalton are unfailingly clever.

Edwards works the trick again in tandem with Hannah Clark in Annabel Arden’s staging of L’Enfant Et Les Sortileges, which increases steadily in visual magic from a deliberately ordinary start.

Opera North fields one of its characteristic ensemble casts, with Wallis Giunta taking the lead as the naughty boy who becomes kind and Ann Taylor touching the heart as his Mother, also tripling up as the Chinese Cup and the Squirrel – a trick several other members of the team bring off with equal aplomb.

Martin Andre is in charge of the subtle and sophisticated score, while the company’s orchestra and chorus provide genuine aural enchantment to match the visuals.

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Opera North's season of double bills starts out with two winning entertainments