Peacock Theatre, London – until 1 July 2018
Guest reviewer: Rhys Scrivener
Pamela Tan-Nicholson had an epiphany coming up with the idea of TriOperas. Take the best bits from Turandot, Madame Butterfly and Carmen, mix thoroughly with a wide range of dance and music styles and garnish with various forms of acrobatics, parkour and pole dancing. You would need over seven hours to watch these three operas back to back so cutting them down to fit into one show and leaving room for the other ingredients was always going to be a difficult task.
The marketing and publicity are truly inspiring, the logo sublime and the souvenir mug a must buy. The idea to have fusion food boxes mirroring the origins of the three operas from China, Japan and Spain is nothing short of genius. Do order one or all three for the intervals as they are truly delicious. I was left quivering with anticipation when the lights finally went up.
Unfortunately, the marketing department may have slightly over-egged the pudding and after setting my expectation stratospherically high, I was left a little underwhelmed by this show. The first opera to get the TriOperas treatment is Turandot. There is a slightly limp out-of-place hire-wire routine at the beginning and apart from a couple of puppets there is none of the promised magic.
We are treated to Keedie Green’s beautiful voice as Turandot with the rest of the cast giving a solid performance. The main problem comes with the treatment of Puccini’s ‘Nessun Dorma’. Changing the rhythm to the two iconic phrases is like sitting down to a perfectly risen souffle and then mashing it up with your fork and pouring ketchup all over it. I imagine Puccini was doing acrobatics in his grave.
The second opera Butterfly had some magnificent ideas including the tap dancing Geishas and stunning violin solo. However, when the ship arrived the words “Boom Boom Boom,” made me chuckle as it reminded me of Baldrick’s famous poem from Black Adder. As Butterfly Chiara Vinci demonstrated why she was shortlisted for Best Female Opera Singer by the Wales Theatre Awards and I am sure we are going to hear plenty more from her stunning voice. There was some very simple trampolining on the upper levels which then required a 10-minute performance from the back-stage crew who will surely win the Chuckle Brothers award for set movement.
Carmen for me was the best of the three acts. After a slightly odd start with a guitar the score settled down and gave us a glimpse of what could have been possible with the TriOperas concept. Lucy Kay’s brilliant performance as Carmen was the only character I really connected with all evening. The male lead also gave a convincing performance and had some lovely tuneful moments, but with the cast list being omitted from the program I am unable to confirm who this was. World champion Lion dancers, Cham Gong Ming and Toh Chin Xian were exceptional in the bull fighting scene and provided the only glimpse of the circus skills everyone was expecting and brought a unified audience gasp as they leapt between narrow ledges on poles.
TriOperas didn’t do the amazing original idea justice. Very, much like baking a cake if you over work the mixture of ingredients the result can be very flat and at times hard to digest. I would recommend seeing this show as an introduction to opera as it offers a good night out but would hope at some point in the future the score can be given the overhaul it desperately needs to realise the huge potential of this idea.
At the Peacock Theatre until the 1st of July 2018. Book by the end of this week using code Opera15 and get tickets for just £15.