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Pop-Up Opera, Don Pasquale, ReviewThe objective of Pop-Up Opera is to make opera “enjoyable and inviting without sacrificing the quality of music”, so reads the programme. Not an easy task some may think, particularly those who are new to the genre, but this team are something special and they have succeeded in pulling off something quite remarkable.

The beauty of this concept is that the cast and creatives (who are essentially, one and the same) stage every opera they produce in accordance with the venues they inhabit. That is, they adapt to fit the space and not vice versa, which is an even bigger challenge than first assumed when you see the types of places they perform in. The venue of choice this time was a private room upstairs in The Sun Tavern in Covent Garden, for a performance of Don Pasquale. This small, oddly shaped room offers the audience an intimate experience of comedic opera at its very best, and even the bar staff are brought in as part of the plot line at various points. At times, this is distracting as it’s unclear whether the background natterings are part of the show or not, but in general this device works in their favour.

Although Don Pasquale is sung entirely in Italian operatic verse, the story is remarkably easy to follow. With the help of some sporadic, cleverly timed and ingeniously written subtitles projected onto a back screen, everything makes sense and frees our minds to focus on the stunning vocal performances. I would advise anyone to read the full plot synopsis provided in the programme before the show though, as it aids with the understanding and doesn’t detract from the enjoyment. Clementine Lovell stands out as the shrew Norina, who is being kept apart from her true love by his father, who is disapproving of the match. With perfect comedy timing and a faultless soprano, Lovell charms us within seconds and injects zestful energy into the show, which seems to be almost infectious.

Don Pasquale is littered with lots of modern cultural references, which is presumably an example of the team’s strategy to help opera appeal to the masses. It certainly works, and some of the ‘text speak’ used as the subtitles on the screen provoke the biggest laughs of the night.

I always find it thrilling when there is just one musician carrying a show, and this case was no exception. The MD James Henshaw sits off stage but in view, with nothing but an electric piano and some very precise cues to bring the vocals to life. By the time we get to the end, it’s almost hard to believe that two hours of enthralling entertainment has been created by just one musician and five cast members. Don Pasquale is the perfect introduction to opera for those who aren’t familiar with it, and for those who are, they won’t have seen one quite like this. Pop-Up Opera have reinvented the opera genre in a way that’s fresh and exciting, and is currently touring the country. Take your kids, take your parents, take yourself for a glass of wine and an eye-opening evening of raw talent.

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Reviewed 08/05/2013

By Caz Cronin

8th May 2013
The Sun Tavern, London, WC2.

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For more info and tour dates see HERE


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