If you’ve always wanted to test out the appeal of opera but have been scared
off by the prospect of a hefty dent to your wallet and an evening of serious
singing in a language you don’t understand, head for Dean Street where
OperaUpClose’s bang up to date production of Puccini’s classic 1896 tale of
love among impoverished Parisian artists in the 1830’s is packing in the
Robin Norton-Hale’s contemporary, colloquial, new version began life above
a 50-seater pub in Kilburn, but this relocation to Soho fits nicely into the
larger theatre’s amenities – with the audience transferring to the bar along
with the cast (and a scattered chorus) when struggling writer Rodolfo takes
Ukrainian cleaner Mimi (she makes fabric flowers in her spare time) to join
his flatmates – aspiring artist Marcello, penniless musician Schaunard and
philosophy post grad Colline – for a Christmas Eve drink.
Outside in the
street, passersby stare curiously through the windows as Musetta (Marcello’s
on-off girlfriend) takes her elderly admirer, lawyer Alcindoro, for a
financial ride, flouncing provocatively along the tables as she sings.
Despite Mimi’s ominous cough, there’s more laughter than tragedy in a lively
production which really does make opera accessible to the masses.
more than one cast (to keep up with the strains of delivering these
demanding operatic roles) but just a busy Andrew Charity accompanying them
all on the piano, and although, on the night I went, there was the
occasional struggle to hit and sustain the notes, this is a fun, accessible
evening, enthusiastically applauded by an appreciative audience.
Soho Theatre, Dean Street, W1D 3NE
020 7478 0100
Tube: Tottenham Court Road
Until 4th Sept
Review: Louise Kingsley