Blacks, Soho Surely there can never have been a barmier version of Donizetti's opera.
An Italian nineteenth century precursor to the rom-com, Pop Up Opera's L'Elisir D'Amore kicks off with a compere of sorts dishing out teacups (and teaspoons to clink them with) to the small audience in an upstairs room at Soho private member's club Blacks. From then on it's head first into madcap: whether it's Cafe D'Amore owner Adina (spirited and talented soprano Clementine Lovell, who founded Pop Up Opera in 2011) tearing the arms and legs off gingerbread men brought her by smarmy salesman Belcore (Ricardo Panela), voluptuous waitress Giannetta (Penelope Manser)'s eye-rolls of glee or the quack doctor Dulcamara (Thomas Kennedy) selling lovesick kitchen boy Nemorino (expressive, mellow-voiced tenor Cliff Zammit Stevens) a 'potion' to make Adina love him. Nemorino glugs it down eagerly but instead, he gets merrily drunk on what is actually booze and in a fit of annoyance Adina says she'll marry Belcore to make Nemorino jealous. More antics ensue, generally well paced and simply directed by Darren Joyston. Capering along, the comic madness and gentle audience interaction are interspersed with a couple of touching moments, especially the lovely, pining duet between Zammit Stevens and Lovell.
Casual modern dress in garish colours and improvised props take away the stuffiness of opera and belie the tight musical direction. Silly but helpful surtitles summarising what's going on (it's sung in Italian). Ever so slightly crackers, Pop Up Opera's new piece is appealingly crazy - and even if opera in such close quarters meant I was sometimes tempted to reach for the earplugs, it was oodles of fun.
- Vicky Ellis