Iolanthe, first performed in London in 1882, also known as The Peer And The Peri, took a mischievous jab at the high society of the time in this bizarre tale of a fairy who has been banished for marrying a mortal, Strephon her son, a half-man, half-fairy sort of bloke, Phyllis, the mortal object of his (and everyone else’s) affections, various vociferous fairies; a conflicted Lord Chancellor; and assorted beery leery Peers.

Phyllis reciprocates Strephon’s love, but the Lord Chancellor, even though he is her legal guardian, also has his eye on her, and forbids Strephon from marrying her. When Phyllis catches Strephon talking to Iolanthe about the situation and mistakes the ever youthful fairy for a lover, she rejects him and says that she will marry a Peer. The Fairy Queen and her crew, unimpressed with the Lord Chancellor and the Peers, put Strephon into Parliament and give him the power to pass any Bill he likes… It’s all a bit tricky really, what with the law about fairies marrying mortals being punishable by death, the Lord Chancellor’s paradoxical legal dilemma, the state of the political nation, forbidden desires, cosmic compromises, and everyone falling in love with everyone else.

One could get quite deep about it, or one could just enjoy a jolly good romp. So to speak.

Well directed by Graham Billing, with superb musical direction by Roland Melia, the show was visually and aurally gripping from the outset. The orchestra was tight and melodious throughout.

The acoustics were great (how mellow was that cello!).

The scenery, consisting of a screen backdrop of a flowing stream and a static image of the Houses of Parliament, was simple but effective.

It was, with the exception of a couple of minor hesitations, pretty slick for a first night.

A few voices stuck out a mile, such as; Phyllis’s (Lisa House) beautiful soaring soprano, and as far as the acting went, there were good performances all round I loved this show. I spent much of the evening tapping my foot and smiling.

Iolanthe is an odd, thought-provoking opera about sex and politics that comes heavily disguised as a sparkly frivolous thing.

I reckon the production team and experienced cast of the White Horse Opera did it more than justice.

Gail Foster