"Inovative mesmerising ingenious contemporary twist"
by David Rumelle on 15/04/13

Despite having to hunt for the venue and poorly signposted directions to where this unique company were performing -for sheer inventiveness and originality-this company has to have full marks.

Recently formed Pop up opera brings a contemporary twist to their productions -whilst making them accessible to all-and their aim to "broaden the appeal of opera and challenge the way it is performed by taking it into unusual places ,making it fun, fresh and intimate"-is certainly reflected in this production of the Donizetti classic.

In this instance-it was performed on a ramshackle house-boat, moored in Shoreham harbour -which when approached made one wonder how on earth an opera could ever be staged in this environment. But this was all part of the magic….

An audience of at least fifty was seated on the upper deck and from the start were thoroughly engaged in the action and even cajoled into participation and musical accompaniment by the director,also becoming a master of ceremonies and orchestrating a percussion section of tea-cups and kitchen utensils!

The confined space of this "venue", far from inhibiting the vocal quality of excellent singers -provided a fine acoustic-enhancing the listening experience and ensuring clarity of diction throughout.

Performed in contemporary costumes with a subtle colour co-ordination(even down to the same shades of pink -echoed in flowers, feather boas and selected props)-the precise and focussed direction and style of this production would not have been out of place in the larger opera houses of the ENO or Royal opera.

Minimal projected sub-titles-used only to punctuate key moments -ensured that even those with a basic knowledge of the plot were left in no doubt as to the action. An act two quartet is even turned into a fast forward video-by clever use of this device.

The five singers are of an extremely high calibre and characterisations are strong and well defined due to the fine direction of Darren Royston. It would be un-fair to single out individuals-as the entire cast blend perfectly and produce an enchanting ensemble. (Even a member of the audience is persuaded to provide an Instant Notary to make up the numbers!) -but Ricardo Panela is mesmerising as Belcore and Thomas Kennedy is in fine patter mode as Dulcamara.

Mobile phones,lap-tops,Juggling carrots, handing out tissues to the audience during Nemorino's sad solo and even cake icing are just a few of the innovative highlights of this production.
Given the unusual nature of the company's performance venues I would urge you to catch thee productions wherever they happen to be playing -as they make for an unforgettable visual and listening experience. But-do make sure you know where you're heading and give yourself plenty of time to get there. I would have hated to have missed a moment of this production-but almost did due to miss-leading directions.

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