Le Docteur Miracle (Pop-Up Opera)
Pop-Up Opera's latest offering makes for a "jolly evening's theatre"
Aged only 18, Georges Bizet won a competition with this fizzy, Italianate short piece and although it sounds very like Rossini in places you can hear hints of Carmen, The Pearl Fishers and L'Arlesienne here and there. Having said that, you can also see why it isn't better known. Great work it certainly isn't but it works well for Pop-up Opera which specialises in performing small scale work in unlikely venues with the intention of reaching new audiences.
And there are pros and cons to that policy. It's very exciting to hear fine opera singers working in a small space so that you can fully appreciate the power and vibrance of the voices. On the other hand opera houses are purpose built. If you play opera in a small café bar, as Pop-up Opera did with this on press night, only the front row can see what's happening on stage and singers moving about amongst the audience is engaging but it means they can't always see each other or the musical director and sometimes it shows.
Docteur Miracle is a delightfully silly story about Silvio (Robert Lomax, a strong tenor) who disguises himself as a chef to infiltrate a family and get the girl he wants. Caught in a compromising position with her he then disguises himself as a quack doctor and tricks the girl's father into handing her over.
Aurelia Jonvaux as the much sought after Laurette is a lively charismatic singer with lots of sparkle. Sarah Champion's fruity mezzo is a delight in the trios and quarters and she really shines in the Carmen medley which comes at the end as an encore. Benjamin Seifert's chestnutty baritone and sparky acting as Laurette's duped father are enjoyable too.
Sung in French, and ably accompanied on piano by Elizabeth Challenger, this show is fun not least because of the witty surtitles (actually back-titles because they're projected onto a wall behind the action). Often they include drawings, photographs, cartoons or funny fonts and they say things such as ‘Young lady, I hope you're not sexting' and ‘In the words of M. D'Allan de Sucre – you're fired.'
All in all it's a jolly evening's theatre and it certainly shows that you can perform opera well and let everyone enjoy it without having to be remotely precious or reverent about it.