by Gaetano Donizetti.
Pop-up Opera Tour to 24 April 2013.
Runs: 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: Carole Woddis 16 April at Blacks Club Soho.
Opera popping-up with careers clearly on the rise.
Once thought the provenance of the rich and elite, opera is increasingly to be found at the back of a pub or peeping out from behind a haystack. Popup Opera, only in existence for little more than three years, would seem to be one of the very best, judging by their delectable offering of Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’Amore in a tiny room at the top of winding stairs at Blacks in Soho.
A members’ club whose raffish goings-on you can almost sense soaked into the bricks and mortar, the performance of L’Elisir was part of a spring tour with Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. The brain child of soprano Clementine Lovell – also singing the lead here as sparky café owner, Adina – after spending time in Italy seeing opera in unlikely places, she felt the idea could be replicated here.
Whether such idiosyncratic small-scale opera catches on remains to be seen. What can certainly be said is that Popup is clearly a launch pad for some extraordinary talents.
Performing on a postage stamp means a greater rather than a lesser test of artistry. When spectators are barely a flaring nostril away and can see every twitch and bead of perspiration, the skill on the part of singers is under even closer scrutiny.
Director Darren Royston, a bundle of energy lassoing in percussive audience participation at every opportunity, makes this L’Elisir full of fun, wit and ingenuity.
A story of thwarted and fluctuating fortunes in love, it has James Henshaw on piano as a prodigious accompanist. But most of all, the production is a showcase for a very special young tenor by the name of Cliff Zammit-Stevens.
Playing the love-sick Nemorino – the original setting of peasant and landowner is rightly transported to waiter and café owner – Stevens has the voice and quality of a nascent and even more engaging Pavarotti. Every note, every moment is etched with clarity and conviction.
A star in the making, he’s matched by Lovell’s sweet singing Adina, Thomas Kennedy’s beautifully pitched, richly characterised Dulcamara – the travelling `doctor’ with the sham love-potion – and Ricardo Panela and Penelope Manser in strong support.
Nemorino: Cliff Zammit-Stevens.
Dulcamara: Thomas Kennedy.
Belcore: Ricardo Panela.
Adina: Clementine Lovell.
Giannetta: Penelope Manser.
Director: Darren Royston.
Musical Director: James Henshaw.
20 April 3pm Brunel Museum Thames Tunnel Shaft London* http://popupoperabrunelelisir.eventbrite.co.uk
23 April 7.30pm The Turk’s Head, St Margaret’s http://popupoperaturkshead.eventbrite.co.uk
(There will be a 45 minute interval at this event, so you can enjoy a drink or some food in the pub.)
24 April 7.30pm Battersea Barge Chelsea http://popupoperabatterseabargelelisir.eventbrite.co.uk
*Please be aware that in this unique and exciting venue there is a very low doorway and access only by (sturdy) scaffold stairs. Please dress appropriately for an underground venue where the temperature may be cool.