The Boatswain’s Mate assessment – Ethel Smyth’s comedian opera has ambiance and sass | Opera

Robert Winslade Anderson, John Upperton and Shaun Aquilina in The Boatswain’s Mate

When composer and author Ethel Smyth died aged 86 in Might 1944, the Each day Telegraph branded her “one of the gifted ladies of all occasions”. The Sunday Occasions obit was extra express in its ambivalence: “Regardless of the final verdict on her music, she herself was magnificent.”

There are not any final verdicts in music, fortunately – simply endlessly shifting fashions. And, after a long time out within the chilly, Smyth is having a very good 12 months: Glyndebourne opened its summer time season with The Wreckers and the Proms has featured a number of of her works, together with the beguiling Double Concerto for Violin and Horn. The decided work of smaller corporations and people nonetheless stays essential to the Smyth legacy. All the time considerate, Grimeborn pageant – rooted in hipster mecca Dalston – first staged her comedian opera The Boatswain’s Mate in 2018 and has revived it as a part of this 12 months’s providing.

Robert Winslade Anderson, John Upperton and Shaun Aquilina in The Boatswain’s Mate
Pitch-perfect: Robert Winslade Anderson, John Upperton and Shaun Aquilina in The Boatswain’s Mate. {Photograph}: Lidia Crisafulli

Directed by Cecilia Stinton, the manufacturing apparently strikes the motion to Fifties Margate – although I’d have struggled to find it so particularly in time or house solely from costumes (“classic”) and minimalist set (picket decking, a washing line, a few previous tables and stools). I additionally by no means labored out why the wonderful piano trio performing a daring, bare-bones discount of Smyth’s rating have been carrying woollen beanies.

But there was ambiance aplenty, using above all on the consummate appearing of Beca Davies as Mary Ann (who remodeled that decking right into a seashore together with her reader-persecuted-by-bored-boyfriend routine through the overture) and Josephine Goddard’s heat, deliciously sassy flip as Mrs Waters – the no-nonsense publican pursued by John Upperton’s wannabe-heroic suitor Harry Benn. Robert Winslade Anderson’s efficiency because the fool police officer known as to a pretend homicide dedicated by Mrs W (in response to a pretend housebreaking staged by Benn) stood out among the many male roles.

Higher diction and extra cautious stability within the Arcola’s tiny house would have helped extra of Smyth’s remarkably witty libretto to hold. However her musical jokes – from a parody of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony’s iconic opening to a take-off of Verdi’s Falstaff and a passage of overwrought pseudo-Rachmaninoff as Mrs W embraces her inside romantic – remained pitch-perfect.