Last year, OperaUpClose scooped the Olivier award for Best New Opera from under the noses of the Royal Opera House and English National Opera with Robin Norton-Hale’s small scale, vigorously updated version of Puccini’s La Bohème which briefly moved action and audience into the downstairs bar area for an added touch of realism, affording those who hadn’t managed to get a ticket a tantalising glimpse through the street level window.
Now she’s turned her attention to Mozart’s popular tale of a serial philanderer, changing the immoral 18th century lothario into a ruthless city trader, Johnny, in the cash-rich noughties.
His address book (assiduously updated by his increasingly worried intern) boasts 1003 conquests in London alone, he’s got more money than he knows what to do with and he’s not afraid to kill to get himself out of a tight spot.
Sung in colloquial English and given a lively contemporary slant, in some ways it’s the perfect way to get a handle on a not always accessible (and often pricey) medium.
That said, there are limitations to the strength of the comparatively young voices, and a single piano – even with the addition of a live electronic score incorporating R & B and dubstep – can’t match the emotional power of an orchestra.
But it’s definitely entertaining and decently sung by rotating casts, with (on the night I went) Martin Nelson particularly imposing as a murdered barrister come back from the dead and Paul Carey Jones giving Johnny an arrogant insouciance as he parties from Sloane Square to Soho, seducing as he goes.
Soho Theatre, Dean Street, W1D 3NE
020 7478 0100
Tube: Tottenham Court Road
Until September 17
£10.00 – £29.50
– Louise Kingsley