Review: Pop-up opera’s Bellini’s I Capuletti e I Montecchi

By April 3, 2016


unspecified-2The trouser role: ‘A breeches role (also pants role or trouser role, travesty or ‘Hosenrolle’) is a role in which an actress appears in male clothing.’

It was in the 1960s that Claudio Abbado produced a version of Vincenzo Bellini’s masterpiece, where the role of Romeo, traditionally sung by a woman, was taken on by a tenor. It did not catch on. At the latest revival of it, by Pop up Opera, it was easy to see why.

The young opera company’s latest offering, at Carousel in London, picked up the story of the star crossed lovers and placed it in a modern-day Mafioso environ. This was largely aided by the setting of a bunker-like basement in Carousel near Baker Street.

unspecifiedThe story, based on a Renaissance work that Shakespeare adapted for Romeo and Juliet, was beautifully told and fearlessly staged by Pop up. As an opera company who tend to stick to the lighter operas, it was a pleasant, if sometimes uncomfortable change. The moments of discomfort and tension mainly manifested themselves early on, suffice to say that even the most stalwart and seasoned Royal Opera House goers, might struggle with one scene which involved plyers, a pair of ears and an unfortunate set of fingernails. Yum.

The opera, in two acts, differs from the better known version in that Romeo is already in love with Juliet, and she with him, and he has already been exiled for killing Juliet’s cousin. When Romeo comes back, and is captured by Juliet’s family, it is as a rebel leader, a real threat to the Capulet family.

The calibre of singing was among some of the finest I have yet heard from Pop Up, especially from the two leads: Alice Privett who played Giulietta and Flora McIntosh, who played Romeo. It is not an easy thing to play an angsty teenage girl, let alone an infuriatingly angsty boy but McIntosh and Privett conveyed not only the extreme youth and innocence of the lovers, but their vulnerability and futile rebellion against their families.

Berrak Dyer, who played an electric keyboard did a splendid job as musical director and performer, with virtually no let-up over the course of two and a half hours. The translated and adapted snippets, projected onto the walls like pieces of silent movie reel were extremely effective, if sometimes unintentionally amusing.

Pop up opera has done it again, catch the production of I Capuleti e I Montecchi as it goes on tour until early May if you possibly can!

Pop-up opera’s <em>Bellini’s I Capuletti e I Montecchi</em> will be touring until Saturday 7th May 2016.