Pssst… I have a secret to tell you. I’ve never actually seen an opera before. Heading to Pop Up Opera’s production of Cosi Fan Tutte at the Tea House Theatre, I was more than curious to see how an opera could be staged in a tea shop, but I need not have been worried. Pop Up Opera specialise in finding interesting and unusual spaces to stage traditional opera and in this case it was utterly delightful.
By staging the production like an Edwardian picnic, the company utilise the Tea House Theatre’s decor to create an intimate atmosphere which heightens the domestic themes of the opera. Surrounded by nick-nacks and brick-a-brac, the entire piece is reminiscent of the living room productions that were held in high society around the time, making it seem authentic and delightfully theatrical.
But this isn’t some Pride and Prejudice re-hash. Vintage style slides are projected behind the action to explain what exactly is happening and to bring Mozart’s story into the 21st century. Mozart seems to have written the original Rom-Com in which two chaps decide to test their fiancés’ fidelity by disguising themselves as exotic strangers and attempting to seduce each other’s ladies. Throw in a couple of meddling servants and you’ve got yourself a party!
Eve Daniell and Chloe Hinton play the flirty sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi whose short-sightedness means they fail to spot their lovers in disguise, played by Adam Torrance and Samuel Pantcheff. It’s incredibly easy to get lost in Eve Daniell’s voice as her steely resolution touches every note. Similarly, Adam Torrence deftly switches from side-splitting comedy to tender hearted laments with a powerful voice. As Despina the maid, Penelope Manser is as mad as a box of frogs which is absolutely brilliant to watch.
Darren Royston’s direction is timed to a T and he really knows how to bring out the modern flavour in nearly 300 year old words. Despite the fact the opera is sung in Italian, the show induces peals of laughter (mainly due to turbans with grand plumage, stick on moustaches and some very salacious behaviour!) and is a real treat to watch. Pop Up Opera have managed to create opera for the twitter generation and gosh darn it, it was simply a fantastic show.
Reviewed by Roz Carter