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Charles Castronovo, King's Head Theatre, BargainTheatreland ReviewI’m not a complete stranger to opera but at the same time, I’m definitely not a regular, nor would I describe myself as a fan. My general experience with opera has always left me finding the genre overwrought and rather inaccessible.  However, unlike my past experiences, this evening of entertainment turned out to be everything I thought opera wasn’t: short, sweet and very enjoyable.

After affectionately being introduced to us as ‘Charlie’ by King’s Head Artistic Director Adam Spreadbury-Maher, Charles Castronovo sweeps onto the stage along with his small band and seems instantly at home – surprising when one thinks of the venues he normally plays!

The programme, running little over an hour, is a charming selection of classic Neapolitan songs, short anecdotes and explanations of the songs, all of which are delivered with real charisma and not once does Charles overstep the line into becoming patronising in his efforts to help his audience understand the material.

One of the best things about this piece is the fact that it runs at just the right length. The audience are given two encores at the end of the performance but these are not the usual ‘for the sake of it’ encores – the audience genuinely want more, and we appreciate it!

Castronovo has a truly remarkable tenor voice (as you would expect), but what really surprised me was his storytelling talent. There is not one number in the programme sung in the English language, yet Charles manages to tell the story of every single song to perfection despite most of the audience not having a clue what the words are. Coming from a Musical Theatre background where acting is everything (sometimes even at the expense of vocals), I truly applaud Castronovo for managing to master the art of spectacular vocals, but also first rate story telling.

What made me truly gain respect for Charles was his wonderful rapport with his accompanying musicians. The looks of sheer appreciation and joy he gives to every musician brings such an extra level of intimacy to the piece and you feel as if it is just you and them in the room. His passion to perform and share this music he so clearly loves is evident throughout and the audience cannot help but begin to share this enjoyment.

Five musicians provide wonderfully sensitive accompaniment and every song is perfectly complimented. Not once do they fall into the trap of overpowering the singer, a frequent problem in the smaller fringe theatres.

The King’s Head should be very proud of the fact they have been able to make such a special event happen – I do hope audiences enjoy the rest of Charles’ concerts as much as I did.

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Reviewed 07/04/13

By David Coverdale

31st Mar – 29th Apr 2013
The King’s Head, London, N1.


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