La Boehme – Soho Theatre – ‘OperaUpClose’ – 16th January 2011
What is OperaUpClose?
According to the King’s Head website “OperaUpClose is dedicated to presenting new, difficult and classic operas in intimate spaces with world-class trained singers and directors, bringing opera to life for diverse audiences and to offer the extraordinary opportunity to experience the dramatic and musical event of opera up close.”
Well, do they?
Yes, they pretty much ticked all these boxes.
Are they real opera singers?
Yes, it’s proper opera-singing alright, made all them more exhilarating by being in a very intimate space. No mikes here
Can you hear the words?
Yes, every word (except for some of the quartets) and the words have been wittily updated and customised to the modern setting.
What worked best?
* The section in the bar downstairs, complete with actor’s entering from the street, clearly visible through the front windows. Musetta steals the show here.
* Mimi, who manages to be convincing as the sweet heroine without being saccharine.
* The sense of camaraderie and warmth between the ‘lads’ – there seems to be something timeless about struggling artists
Anything I need to know?
When they ask you to leave the auditorium after the first act, it’s because the second act is in the bar downstairs – get down there sharpish if you want a seat!
Be honest, there must have been some things that didn’t work with the contemporary theme?
The updating of the story worked surprisingly well – the lyrics helped in this respect as they were clever enough to draw us in. Of course it does stretch credulity at times, but no more than your average episode of “EastEnders”. On balance we would rather enjoy the freshness of the contemporary approach than feel alienated by fancy costumes and big wigs. At the end of the day the music is the same and the singing was top-notch.
There are plenty more productions planned – have a look at www.kingsheadtheatre.com, the website for the King’s Head, now known as ‘London’s Little Opera House’.