Gilbert and Sullivan were not known as a team when they collaborated on Trial By Jury in 1875. But they certainly were afterwards.

This brief ‘novel and original dramatic cantata’ contains several of the seeds of their later success and it gets a well-deserved airing from the stalwarts of York Opera. Hilary Dyson’s new production extracts a maximum of theatre from an essentially static piece.

The problem for all companies staging it is how to fill out the rest of the evening. The traditional route has been a double bill with Sullivan’s first operetta, Cox and Box. York Opera’s solution is a prequel, Angelina’s Betrothal, devised and directed by Clive Marshall, in which we meet the (un)happy couple who are later to appear as Plaintiff and Defendant in the trial.

It is an ingenious idea, albeit not one carried through to its utmost. There are rumblings of discontent from the bride’s father, but the plot-line of Angelina is otherwise wafer-thin, in a barely disguised riffle through a ragbag of Victorian parlour songs.

But it’s good fun, not least because every last word is audible. The cast, all party guests, are in Maggie Soper’s imaginative period costumes.

Ian Thomson-Smith, as host, launches proceedings with a stirring ‘Ho, jolly Jenkin!’ (Ivanhoe). Among several admirable solos from chorus members, Catherine Thornton’s intense account of Stephen Adams’s The Holy City earns a mention. The massed guests chip in neatly from time to time, finishing with a lively chorus from The Sorcerer.

The trial follows in merry vein. Clive Marshall as Learned Judge sets the tone with a breezy ‘When I, good friends, was called to the bar’, leaving his scurrility in no doubt.

Jasmine Caine’s jilted Plaintiff (alias Angelina), still in her wedding finery, is nicely contrasted with Hamish Brown’s mildly caddish Defendant. Her clear soprano and his high tenor blend well.

There are pleasing cameos from Ian Small’s Usher, offering advice to the jurymen, and Clive Goodhead’s stern Counsel for the Plaintiff.

The gentlemen of the jury, down one wing of Peter Butler’s set, have some hilarious ‘business’ and, with the colourful ladies on the opposite wing, make entertaining work of the Bellini parody, A Nice Dilemma.

Throughout the evening, Tim Tozer does sterling duty at the piano, and the whole is discreetly conducted by Pauline Marshall.

Further performances tonight and tomorrow.