I may not be the world’s biggest fan of small scale/fringe opera efforts. But last night’s performance of Bizet’s Le Docteur Miracle largely changed my mind by offering an appropriate work in the appropriate setting. Bizet’s youthful effort was after all written for a competition organised by Jacques Offenbach and is both suitable frothy and requires a small cast of singers. Here we didn’t feel like we are missing out on the great orchestral colours of mature Puccini and Verdi but more like discovering repertoire rarely performed and in a format that would make it an entertaining introduction to the world of opera.
The theme of food runs through the plot of the work and here was given a Masterchef twist, while adding segments of Carmen to the mix (apologies for the obviously awful pun). The projections accompanying particularly the omelette quartet were hilarious with quotes sourced from the TV programme and topical news references. Audience participation was not too taxing even if some got kissed and cuddled by the daughter of the family (Laurette) most of the time we contributed ingredients to the egg mix, clapped along, sang a bit of Carmen karaoke or even played hang man with the dramatically bearded Dr Miracle. It was all good fun and didn’t try too hard to be a tedious animateur routine.
The performances by the four singers were suitably bubbly and fun. The childish enthusiasm of Aurélia Jonvaux was the driving force for most of the plot alongside the comical reinventions of Robert Lomax who metamorphosed in Dr Miracle after having spent the previous two hours in a chef’s outfit and stripped down to his boxer shorts and t-shirt. The impressive presence of both Sarah Champion and Benjamin Seifert helped create the contrast for the slapstick of the younger characters to flourish. Like any other shoestring opera production special mention for the long suffering pianist, Elizabeth Challenger who played with spark and ebullience.
If you fancy a good belly laugh and like your opera silly it is worth catching up with this mobile opera company. Find more about their tour here: http://popupopera.co.uk/whats-on I can imagine even the grump of the family will have a little smile at the end of the show.
A few tweets from the evening