Having had a runaway success with Crazy For You earlier this summer, and with this latest Opera Show already a sell-out in the open-air hotel garden venue of Kilworth House Theatre, owners Celia and Richard Mackay have little to worry about on the commercial front.
Their own production company, To Be Productions, is staging this three-act entertainment under the direction of resident supremo Mitch Sebastian and musical director Matthew Freeman.
And with every visual, aural and technological trick in the book wrung from the evening’s extravaganza, there’s certainly plenty to warm up the otherwise autumnally chilly audiences.
For the purists, there’ll be plenty to moan about too, with pre-recorded click tracks supplementing the live eight-piece orchestra and some wacky costumes and scenery adding diversions or distractions, depending on your point of view. This is unashamedly opera for the YouTube generation.
Four soloists voice a wide array of operatic arias, from Purcell to Puccini, in three diverse acts nominally, if bemusingly, assembled under the headings Baroque Beginners, The Recording Revolutions and Electronic Evolution. Among these voices, soprano Anna-Clare Monk and tenor Amar Muchhala excel, with quality performances confidently on top of their material.
Alongside the singers, five dancers are given weird and occasionally completely impenetrable things to do to help things along. Of these, only the second act – in which a 1940s Madrid homestead is evoked to the strains of a simulated radio broadcast – really hangs together properly, although elsewhere the dressings and visual knick-knacks prove impressive at times.
There are some stunning moments, among them Dido’s Lament and Song to the Moon, but it’s interesting that the most powerful musically are those with the least visual accompaniment. It’s as if Sebastian can’t quite convince himself that the arias are enough in themselves, so the whole artists’ toolbox, from video projections to electric guitar solos, is splashed about on the Kilworth canvas with varying degrees of success.
A global tour of the show follows its premiere in the Leicestershire countryside. Goodness knows what the rest of the world will make of it.
- Michael Davies