RITA & LA SERVA PADRONA
by Gaetano Donizetti/G.B. Pergolesi.
Tour to 24 July 2013.
Runs 2hr One interval
Review: William Russell 20 July at Brunel Museum Rotherhithe.
Popup pops down to good effect.
Scintillating little opera company Popup Opera specialises in performing in places that other companies cannot reach – like the matinee reviewed here which took place in the Brunel Tunnel entrance which is part of the Brunel Museum.
To get down we had to bend double and edge through a low corridor for several feet, after which we descended by a temporary staircase to the depths. The acoustics were good – the museum stages regular events. As for the tunnel itself, one of the engineering glories of Victorian England, it is still in use by the Over and Under grounds.
Rita & La Serva Padrona, Pop Up’s latest offering, is an amalgam of two comic opera sketches composed over a century apart by different composers, which means it sometimes is a slightly tricky mixture of musical styles. Donizetti’s Rita (1841) also has better tunes than Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona (1733), which has more recitatives.
But the mixture works, the performances sparkle, and director Darren Royston keeps things moving briskly. The plots are minimal, but basically two termagant women end up with the men they want to dominate, and the cad, who has betrayed one of them, gets the potential wife from hell, which serves him right.
Clementine Lovell, svelte in a crimson-flounced Spanish dress, is Rita, a coquettish virago to fear, and Melanie Lodge as Serpina, the bossy maid in the Pergolesi, is a superb black-clad dominatrix.
As for the men, they could not be bettered – Cliff Zammit Stevens as Beppe, the fool Rita has picked out, gets the best arias to deliver, Antoine Salmon as Serpina’s intended victim is resonant of voice, and Simon Wallfisch makes Gasparo, Rita’s long lost, unlamented husband, a cad to die for. All of them are in good voice.
That leaves director Darren Royston playing all the other parts, warming up the audience, and generally misbehaving all over the place to considerable comic effect. The result is a soufflé so light it could float away into the atmosphere.
Rita: Clementine Lovell.
Beppe: Cliff Zammit Stevens.
Gasparo: Simon Wallfisch.
Uberto: Antoine Salmon.
Serpina: Melanie Lodge.
Vespone: Darren Royston.
Director: Darren Royston.
Musical Director: James Henshaw.