In June 2014 we performed Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comedy masterpiece The Rivals in a new adaptation that included some of Mozart’s best-loved music from operas such as The Marriage of Figaro and Cosi fan Tutte, which formed a perfect accompaniment to Sheridan’s words.
Roundly vilified at its first performance in 1775, Sheridan heavily reworked the script, added a prologue to apologise to the audience, changed one of the cast and the result was a triumph. A favourite play of the British Royal family at the time and of George Washington in the American colonies, it has been endlessly revived ever since and remains a permanent fixture in amateur and professional theatre listings on both sides of the Atlantic to this day.
As with all his plays, The Rivals is a kaleidoscope of wonderfully-observed characters that weave in and out to create a sparkling array of comic colour. The enduring appeal of his plays reveals Sheridan’s genius of being able to show us situations and people that are absolutely of their time and yet remain utterly recognisable today. Never aspiring to be great art, this is writing that is full of air and light but always superbly and expertly crafted.
Mozart wrote some of his most memorable music for the stage and it is clear from his letters that he often understood the mechanics of drama better than a lot of his librettists which led to many frustrating and unfinished operatic projects. Although Vienna was awash with musical talent at the time, sadly for him and for us, good playwrights and librettists appear to have been in depressingly short supply. One can only speculate what would have happened if Sheridan, the librettist of probably the most popular English opera of the 18th and 19th Centuries, The Duenna, had been able to work with one of the greatest operatic composers.
- Mrs Malaprop: Joan Self
- Lydia Languish: Claire Johnson
- Julia Melville: Sarah Cushing
- Lucy: Tracy Humphreys
- Sir Anthony Absolute: David Stevens
- Captain Jack Absolute: Tim Johnson
- Faulkland: Tim Guest
- Bob Acres: Noel Dollimore
- Sir Lucius O’Trigger: Malcolm Steward
- Head waiter: Graham Robson
- Adaptation & Director: Tim Johnson
- Assistant Director: Martin Cosgrif
- Accompanist: Paul Sudlow
- Stage Manager & sets: Graham Robson