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The Adventures of Pinocchio (Opera North, Leeds)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Let’s not use the mighty Wagnerian word “Gesamtkunstwerk”, but it’s the integration of all the arts that makes Opera North’s The Adventures of Pinocchio such a triumph, from the front cloth apparently done by primary school Chagalls onwards. On its premiere in 2007 it was greeted as (almost uniquely) an opera instantly enjoyable for both children and adults and it returns as an established success.

Alasdair Middleton’s witty and incisive libretto preserves Carlo Collodi’s original fable, including its simple moral, and resists Disneyfication. Jonathan Dove’s music covers a huge range of styles while always remaining accessible and distinctive. Martin Duncan’s highly inventive production marshals flocks of bizarre characters with enviable nonchalance and Francis O’Connor’s appealingly ingenious and practical designs negotiate 20 different scenes without pausing for breath.

Assorted puppeteers, dancers and acrobats add to the joy of the evening, there is inspired multi-tasking from the likes of Graeme Broadbent, Rebecca Bottone, Carole Wilson and Nicky Spence and the Cat-and-Fox double act of Mark Wilde and James Laing is comically seedy. The superb and indefatigable Victoria Simmonds (Pinocchio) can do cute, but mostly refrains; Jonathan Summers (Geppetto) exudes goodness, as does Fflur Wyn as the Blue Fairy, and conductor David Parry maintains the highest musical standards amid the fun.

– Ron Simpson


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