The world premiere of Pamela Tan-Nicholson’s TriOperas comes to the Peacock Theatre in Holborn. The show is subtitled: ‘Turandot, Butterfly, Carmen Reimagined’. Three operas, each with a woman at the centre of the tale: a Chinese warrior-princess, a Japanese Geisha and a Spanish gypsy girl.
Each opera has been compressed into 30 minutes, keeping the main plot and familiar tunes. The production merges opera singing with punk, rap, rock and hip-hop alongside acrobatics, kung-fu, puppetry, breakdancing, tap, ballet, salsa, Chinese lion wushu and parkour with the musicians joining the performers on the stage. If this sounds like a lot to take in, you’d be correct; there’s a lot going on, all over the multi-layered stage and above the audience.
The production has been designed for the female cast members to rotate roles in the three operas. Tan-Nicholson’s philosophy is that every woman can identify, in one way or another, with each female character in TriOperas. Performers with a range of training and backgrounds feature in the production.
Tan-Nicholson has brought together a stellar production team, including Royal Ballet Principal Steven McRae, Sadler’s Wells’ Breakin’ Convention Director Jonzi D, Masters, Siow and Tang from Kun Seng Keng Lion and Dragon Dance Association, and music director Vasko Vassilev from the Royal Opera House. The production is also providing opportunities for students from the BRIT School to gain practical experience on and off stage.
TriOpera is a bold undertaking that takes a while to get into its stride, the stage is busy and some of the well-known melodies are lost in the throng despite being sung in English. By the time we get to the third opera, Carmen, Tan-Nicholson’s aspiration is realised: “to push the boundaries of what opera is and can be for a 21st century audience – a contemporary, all-inclusive, all-action art form.” There’s lots of interesting things to see and hear, you just have to stay alert. The highlight for me was the use of a Chinese lion in the bull fight with the toreador. These women still get a hard time and their stories don’t end well but here they get centre stage.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Photo: Tristram Kenton