Thursday 9 May 2024

Opera Locos - Review

Peacock Theatre, London


Opera Locos, conceived by the Spanish Yllana theatre company, comes to the Peacock Theatre following its successful Edinburgh Fringe run last summer. The show is a bizarre carnivalesque romp through opera’s greatest hits performed by a troupe of five avant-garde opera singers. The performers weave through a veritable top of the pops of opera from Verdi’s La Traviata to Mozart’s Queen of the Night Aria, interspersed with some more modern hits, and isloosely centred on emerging romances between the performers. The plot lines feel merely incidental to the music and are, at times, difficult to follow as they are swallowed by exaggerated comedy. The show also takes a surprisingly darker turn with one of the performers struggling with alcoholism and suicidal contemplation, a plot choice that, while potentially nodding to the tragedy of opera, seemed stark and out of place in such an eccentrically comedic show. The operatic performances are brilliant with truly high class singing, most notably a breathtaking Nessun Dorma, performed by Jesus Alvarez. However, the performers voices surprisingly failed to carry the modern classics, not quite awarding the same power to Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You as was given to Bizet’s Carmen.

The ‘jukebox opera’ style of Opera Locos is formatted to make opera more accessible for non-opera goers by veering away from the long and involved classics and providing recognisable tunes to get the whole audience on board. While this goal is largely successful, with the showreel of best hits keeping up a constant tempo, the ‘all over the place’ approach lacked the normal pathos and commitment to story from a regular opera. The high degree of forced audience participation, while fun, could also be off putting for those who might not be as familiar with La donne e mobile yet find themselves being encouraged to sing it into a microphone.

The staging was simple with limited use of set or props which allowed the performers to really take the fore. Tatiana De Sarabia’s costuming gave a fun hint to the Spanish origins of the group however, did also give the impression of a child who had gotten overexcited playing dress-up.

Audiences should still expect to be delighted by this outlandish opera-come-pantomime although should be advised to thoroughly suspend their expectations of reality or the normal running of a theatre show with regular spurts of lights on audience interaction and one (hopefully willing) audience member even being taken on stage for the final curtain call.

Runs until 11th May
Reviewed by Dina Gitlin-Leigh

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